If Love Were By Design, page 5
“Are you eager to get back?” He asked. “Because we could go through the park on the way back.” He added, “It’s nice out, and I could walk off what I ate.” He stood, and dropped a few twenties on the bar table. “So what do you want to do? Walk, or drive back?”
“Um.” She stood grabbing her purse as she thought. Not an hour ago she did want to walk in the park. And it was a nice day out.
“While you think about it, we’ll walk.” He suggested and then put his hand on her back to steer her out of the restaurant. “So, here’s an off the wall question for you.” He said when they reached the sidewalk.
“Okay.” She said slowly.
“I’m wondering what your bucket list is. You know things you want to do.” He said.
“I haven’t made one.” She confessed. “I’m pretty boring. Ask me my five–year or ten–year goal and I could answer that! But I’ve always wanted to go to Cancun. Go on a hot air balloon ride. Maybe do something super crazy like bungee jump or sky dive. But I doubt I ever will. I would be too scared when it came down to it. I have been on one of those sixteen story swings. That was creepy. There was nothing to hold onto.”
“A five–year plan. Okay I’ll bite.” He said with a laugh.
“Okay. In five years, I want to be two years into a long engagement. I’ll be working at Saxton Hip, but making more money. I want to be in Manhattan by then, and own a condo, preferably on the top floor with a roof garden. Career wise, I’ve already achieved all my goals in a year.” She said.
“And in ten years?” He asked.
“I should be married by then! And if I have kids I’ll probably quit, at least for a few years.” She shrugged, “If I do have kids I won’t ignore them—I’ll make time for them.” She added, “But, it all depends on if my husband wants kids. I don’t think it would be a deal breaker for me though, if he didn’t want them.”
He quickly asked, “So what would you consider a deal breaker? Besides illegal drugs and abuse.”
“Religion. I couldn’t be with anyone who wasn’t a Christian. And I couldn’t be with anyone who gambled, chain–smoked, and had control issues. And I could never be with someone who had close female friends. Acquaintances, sure, but spent time with—no. I’m not secure enough for that.” She said.
“That does smack of insane jealousy.” He teased her, while grinning.
“I think it’s a man not fulfilling a woman’s need to feel important and secure in their relationship.” Veronica retorted. “If she’s jealous it’s because he’s giving her a reason to be.”
“I was joking, Veronica.” He nudged her. “I’m the most jealous person on earth, and have been since I was cheated on. I find it inappropriate and disrespectful to consider spending time with the opposite sex while dating another. If a woman doesn’t like that about me, then it’s obvious it would never work out between us. That’s definitely a deal breaker for me, too. But I think I would have to add that I could never be with someone who was manipulative, dragged me to her parents’ house every other weekend, or asked me to quit my job because I work twelve–hour days, and sixty hours a week.” They cut through the park and reached the paved path before he said, “So my last question, and then I promise not to drill you anymore.”
“No. I don’t mind. I like questions. If you didn’t you’d see how shy I really was.” She said. “But you didn’t say your five or ten–year goal.”
“Mine?” He smiled. “It’s the same I think. Well no. I’ll be engaged in a year, married in two, kids by five years, or sooner—probably sooner. And in ten years I’ll be doing something completely different like oil paint.” He said throwing out the idea. It was obvious it was only a thought. He in fact had no idea what he would be doing by forty. He paused before saying, “Okay, my last question.”
“Okay.” She said.
“Who’s the actor you’re attracted to most?” He asked.
“He plays in that movie with all those kids. What is his name?” She asked.
“I have no idea.” He said and laughed.
“He has dark hair and pretty eyes, very good looking and brawny. I’m not a big movie buff. I always feel I should be doing something else so. Unless it’s with someone, then I’ll make time. But typically I don’t see them alone and like me, my best friend Kimmy is constantly busy.” She laughed. “I guess anyone who is tall, dark and handsome. What woman wouldn’t say that though, right?”
“Your boyfriend in college had dark hair, pretty eyes, and was muscular?” He asked.
“He was average with dark hair. Actors are supposed to have unique combinations.” She said.
“I have black hair and green eyes, does that qualify as unique?” He asked.
“I didn’t notice.” She lied.
“Are you curious who I would say?” He asked.
“Not really.” She said. “I hear you date models all the time, so I’m guessing any model turned actress.”
“You heard that? You shouldn’t believe everything you read.” He paused, “I work around models. I meet a lot of them. I guess you could say it’s bound to happen once or twice.”
“I work with models, and I haven’t run into that problem.” She teased him.
Veronica came into Saxton Hip early Tuesday morning. She turned on her light, sat at her desk, and started reading her email. It took a half hour to read through them, review phone messages, return a few calls, and then finally she began to make the prototype of her newest shoe. She didn’t have time to convince Marcus that her idea was better—she would simply make it and show it to him. It was almost eight when people started to arrive. Kimmy stuck her head into the office and said, “I thought you were off for two weeks.”
“I told Mr. Berks I would do them on my own time. In the end he didn’t argue.” Veronica said.
“I’ll come back during my break. I want to hear all about it!” Kimmy said and left to open the store.
A few minutes later Marcus walked by her office. He did a double take before stepping into the room. “Veronica! What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be at William Berks for two weeks.”
“You know how I told you I never met William Berks before, Marcus?” She asked him.
“Yeah.” He said and sat in her vacant chair. He looked suddenly ill as if she was about to expose a lie.
“I met him. Last Friday I ran into him at the warehouse and I mean that literally. I broke his nose. It was awful. Then I saw him on the flight, and despite avoiding his eye, he saw a drawing I was doing of a pair of shoes. He asked me to make them for him as payback.” Veronica said.
“Where is it? Let me see the sketch.” Marcus laughed with relief.
“He has it.” She informed him.
“So he wanted you to make him a pair shoes—one pair.” Veronica nodded. Marcus smiled. “Oh, good!” He took a deep breath and sighed. “So you’re staying here.”
“Of course, I am. But he did ask me yesterday why I didn’t have my own line. I started wondering if that were something you would consider in the future. Letting me branch out and make a line of Veronica Mitchell shoes. Like have my own name instead of yours.” She held her breath. When he didn’t answer immediately her heart began to pound. It wasn’t a good sign. To make it worse she had spent most of the night thinking about how great it would be. She regretted it now, because Marcus was turning nearly purple. He wasn’t happy about the idea at all.
“I couldn’t sell anything that wasn’t mine in my store, Veronica.” Marcus finally replied. “Saxton Hip only sells Yutan clothing and accessories. If I make an exception for you, everyone would remind me of it later and would want to put their name in my products. So, I can’t do that. I thought it was an honor enough to have your product with my name on it.”
“It is Marcus.” She smiled, but she wasn’t happy with his response. Two days ago she was more than happy to have her initials alongside his name. But why did William Berks have to mention her own shoe
“That’s my girl.” Marcus stood. “Well, I think you deserve this Veronica. As of last week your new salary is $105K a year. Plus I want to give you a bonus so come by my office before lunch.” He smiled, “By Friday you’ll be making more than double.”
“Thank you, Marcus.” She said again.
Marcus left her office. Veronica stared at the door frame. She should be happy. A raise that would move her out of Queens and into Manhattan! This is what she had been waiting for! And to top it off she was getting a bonus. Everything was falling into place. After nearly five years with Saxton Hip she was finally where she had always wanted to be. Yet, she wasn’t happy. Not like she should be. His answer had left a gaping hole. Suddenly, her career wasn’t where she wanted it to be. Veronica had a feeling of loss sink into her. She would much rather have her own shoes than a stupid bonus! And as if that thought decided it, Veronica vowed to herself that she wouldn’t give up on the idea.
Strange how one meeting and one comment could spark a new desire in her. Visions of becoming Marcus’s partner bombarded her last night. She could even see her shoes sitting on displays in his store. Somehow she had worked herself up to thinking that Marcus would even be thrilled at the idea of her own line. William Berks was excited about it. Pity Marcus was not.
Veronica was crushed. She should have told Mr. Berks she would think about it, instead of turning him down flat. She had half a mind to call him and agree to his offer. Maybe he could still find her someone willing to do the business end of her work. But instead of picking up the phone, she worked all morning trying to forget about it, and went to Marcus’s office before lunch still in a miserable mood.
She knocked on the door, and smiled to mask what she was actually feeling. Veronica entered at the sound of his voice. “Oh, good. This must mean it’s lunchtime.” Marcus said. He sat behind his desk and pulled out a checkbook. “We should go to lunch together and celebrate at that salad bar downtown.” He scribbled out a check, and then handed it to her. “It’s not as much as I think you’re worth, but $50K is a good place to start. After all, you’re my second now.”
“Thank you, Marcus.” She said, and put it in her pocket.
“So, salad for lunch?” He asked.
“I promised Kimmy I would have lunch with her. You’re more than welcome to come with us.” Veronica said.
“Not unless you’re going to that salad bar.” He replied.
“We’re going to Camaro Bistro. Kimmy has a gift card, because her brother works there and gave it to her.”
“No. I’ll pass.” He said.
“Are you sure?” She asked.
“Yeah. Go. Get out of here.” He commanded with a smile.
“Thanks again Marcus, for everything.” Veronica said.
Veronica met up with Kimmy outside the store. They took a taxi to Camaro Bistro, but walked the last two blocks because of traffic. While in the car, Veronica caught her up–to–date on everything that happened in the last two weeks, and how she was genuinely disappointed at not starting her own line of shoes. “I can’t believe you broke his nose.” Kimmy said as if that was the only thing she heard.
“I know it was terrible.” Veronica admitted. “But Marcus didn’t even think about it. He turned a ripe plum shade before catching his temper and dismissing the idea. There is no way I can come back to him with that idea. Trust me, that bridge is burned!” Veronica took a deep breath.
“Can I get these?” Kimmy asked when she stopped at a magazine stand and quickly picked out three. As she paid she dropped the money on to the counter and cursed. “Veronica! You’re on the cover of New York City Slander!”
“What?” Veronica gasped. She tore the paper from Kimmy grasp.
“I’ll buy that, too.” Kimmy said to the clerk.
“This is horrible!” Veronica cringed. Listen to this: “Millionaire William Berks has a new hot model on his hip. The mystery woman was caught with the oh–so–secretive William Berks Monday. They were trying not to hold hands, but their steamy eyes show it all. Will this be the newest soon–to–be–ex for the bachelor, or was he bringing her out into the public’s eye as a statement of their attachment. Two weeks will tell. And this, on the eve of Mr. Berks opening his new line of men’s hats and scarves . . . blah, blah, blah.” Veronica felt sick—this was a nightmare.
“You can see your face well, too.” Kimmy uttered. “You’re right, that’s terrible!”
“You’re not helping.” Veronica snapped. It was true though. Her face was unmistakably her own. It wouldn’t be long until someone recognized her. “Kimmy there is an entire paragraph about me liking rich men!” Veronica gasped. She disagreed with the words as she read, “I am not a gold digger!” She barked. Veronica looked miserably at Kimmy and then let go of the paper. She didn’t want to see anymore. It was humiliating!
“Veronica, it’s not that bad. Everything will be fine. It will blow over in two weeks.” Kimmy guessed and tossed the paper in the trash. “Besides they said that you were a model. Take it as a compliment, and forget about it!” Veronica smiled at Kimmy because she was trying to be encouraging. “Come on—I’ll buy you lunch!”
“No. I think I’ll go home. I’m feeling sick to my stomach, anyway.” Veronica mumbled.
“Yeah, because of the paper! You’ll be fine in ten minutes once you eat.” Kimmy promised her.
“No. I don’t want to. Tell Marcus I’m taking those two weeks off. I think this will be easier if I don’t feel like I’m being watched.” She said. Kimmy tried to get her to stay longer, but in the end Kimmy agreed. Veronica hailed a cab, and jumped in as Kimmy promised to call her.
Veronica wasn’t sure if she had made the right decision to go home. With all the idle time, she focused on the newspaper article. What started as a nightmare turned into an ugly embarrassing mess that made her worry about her job. Had her parents seen it? She hoped not! By the following day she didn’t feel she could leave her apartment with all the gossip papers still floating around New York. She didn’t leave her apartment for a few days until she decided to check the papers to make sure nothing else was written about her, and to her relief there wasn’t. It put her at ease that her parents didn’t call. She was sure they would have if they had noticed her in the newspaper.
However, Kimmy did call, several times. With each phone conversation she asked her how she was holding up. The answer was always the same. “I’ll be fine when this all blows over, which will probably be in a week or so.”
However, by the middle of the second week, Veronica was still lounging in her pajamas watching movie trilogies. They were there only for background noise, while she sketched anything: people outside, landscapes, her own face in the mirror, and objects around the house. It was a good way of occupying her mind. But she was going stir–crazy. Then she remembered she needed to make William Berks’s shoes, and immediately began the task. She made a few phone calls. Visited her friend downtown that poured metal molds for her buckles, visited the warehouse, and finally went back home and started piecing together his shoes. It was a long process but one she always enjoyed. She took her time making sure she did her best. When she was finished late Sunday night, she put them in a shoebox, and closed it. She was exhausted, and the dread of needing to go to work the following morning was starting to make her anxious.
She didn’t want to face peoples’ jeers or sneers about the column. Not yet, but she had to. If she was lucky, it might not be that bad. Maybe she wouldn’t hear anything at all. Gossip behind her back never hurt her much, and that was the way she preferred it.
Veronica got to work early Monday morning, and her office door was kept closed. She brought William’s shoes so she could pack them in a shipping box for when the postman arrived. It would be over, and she wouldn’t
She quickly sat and continued to make her prototype. She use to find it inspirational to know her shoes were going to end up on the floor of Saxton Hip, but as she watched her shoe slowly come together, it somehow lost its magic. It was a sad moment to realize that she was suddenly unhappy at her job.
There was a knock at her door. She hesitated to open it. When she did, however, a man was standing in front of her holding a large vase of white lilies, pink roses, and purple heather. “Are you Veronica Mitchell?”
“I am.” She declared. He gave her the flowers and then he waited impatiently for her to sign for them. She put them on her desk, found the card, and then opened it. It said, “Pier 54. June 3rd. 9:00 p.m. sharp. The Million Dollar Baby.” Veronica turned around to ask the delivery guy who had sent the flowers, but he was gone.
“Who gave those to you?” Kimmy asked an hour later.
“I have no idea.” Veronica said, and watched Kimmy read the card.
“Huh. Weird card. I wouldn’t go. Kind of creepy unless you know whom they’re from.” Kimmy paused. “I’m on my break. While you were gone everyone got a bonus! I got a check for $1K yesterday. I’m taking you out drinking and dancing this weekend.” Kimmy danced happily. “That’s going to pay for two of my classes! I’m so excited!”
“That’s great!” Veronica said. She felt guilty about her $50K bonus Marcus had given her, but she wasn’t about to say anything to Kimmy. Instead, she offered to be the one to pay for the drinks.
“Why? Did you get a bonus, too?” Kimmy asked.
“I did.” She said. “But I haven’t cashed it.” That was true. She would feel bad if she cashed it. Did she want to stay with Saxton Hip or try to make it on her own? Those were the nagging questions she couldn’t stop thinking about until this morning. The sense of loss was felt even when she wasn’t focused on shoes. Veronica didn’t want to work uninspired. The question of if she should move on had turned that morning to the question of when and how she should move on. It was a great goal, and would be the peak of an amazing career to have a line of her own. Not that she was planning on William Berks ever offering her a job again, but there had to be other ways of starting out, even if Marcus Yutan didn’t want to be the one to help her. It was only a matter of time.