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Sure Shot
Author: Sarina Bowen

One

 

 

Cinderella Gets into a Limousine

 

 

Bess

 

 

September


When the black limousine slides to a stop in front of me, I feel a familiar tension right behind my breastbone.

Limos always have this effect on me. The same thing happens in expensive hotels and fine restaurants. For a moment, I feel like there’s been some mistake—that this girl from the wrong side of Detroit doesn’t belong here.

When the driver’s side door opens, I half expect one of Cinderella’s footmen to get out. But it’s only Duff, my friends’ bodyguard. “Hey, Bess! How are you?”

“Great, Duff. I can open doors by myself, though.”

“Just doin’ my job,” he says, halfway around the hood of the car already. He unlocks the door with a key fob and then opens it with a flourish. “Happy Friday.”

“You too. Thanks for picking me up,” I say as I duck into the back of the sleek car.

“It’s our pleasure,” my friend Alexandra says, waving to me from one of the two long leather seats. Her ten-month-old daughter is beside her, strapped into a car seat. When Rosie sees me, she babbles a greeting and stretches out her short little arms to me.

“Hi, gorgeous!” I coo, seating myself directly in front of her. “How are you both?”

“We’re great,” Alex says. “Except one of us is teething. Watch that pretty dress if you hold her at the party.”

“Oh, what’s a little drool between friends?” I glance down at my sundress and wonder if I should have worn jeans. The party is in a backyard. A billionaire’s backyard. I never get dolled up, but my sister-in-law talked me into buying this dress, and it would be a crime to just abandon it in my closet.

Alex is wearing a beautiful outfit, too—a flowing skirt and a stylish matching top. She always looks like a billion bucks. That’s because she has a billion bucks. If we carry this Cinderella metaphor a little further, Alex is the princess who’s used to finery, and I’m the villager who spent her childhood in rags before traveling the kingdom to find her own fortune among the knights and thieves.

The baby makes a little noise of complaint, so I take Rosie’s small hand in mine, and rub my thumb over her chubby wrist.

Honestly, I’m far more envious of Alex’s baby than I am of her Mercedes. I need to snuggle this baby. Although it’s rude to unclip a child from her lifesaving car seat just to fulfill one’s own hormonally driven baby-snuggling needs. So I have to be content with holding her hand and staring deep into her brown eyes.

“Tell me everything,” Alex says. “How was your vacation? How was Vermont? Did you really spend ten days offline?”

“I totally did. It was about as weird as you’d expect.”

“Did you experience any withdrawal symptoms?” Alex wrings her hands.

I narrow my eyes at her. “You know I only gave up my phone, right? I wasn’t secretly at rehab.”

She laughs. “I know. But going ten days without my phone would be a real challenge. I don’t like what it says about me. As if the world would stop turning if I’m out of reach for a few days.”

“Right? I felt ridiculous every time I reached for my phone, and it wasn’t there.”

Then again, Alex runs a billion-dollar tech corporation with over a thousand employees. People depend on her. I run a company with exactly two employees—myself, plus Alex’s boyfriend Eric Bayer—but it feels like more, because my thirty-five clients are accustomed to calling day and night.

That’s why Eric challenged me to unplug for a whole week’s vacation. “You hired me so that you could get away from your job sometimes,” he’d said. “What are you waiting for?”

He was right. So I scheduled my vacation and left my phone behind.

Across from me, the baby babbles loudly, and I don’t need a translator to know what she’s saying. Please take me out of this infernal five-point harness. And when I make no moves to free her, she starts to complain.

“Just a few more blocks,” Alex says, stroking the wispy hairs on her daughter’s head. “Then we’ll see Daddy, and you can crawl around on the grass.”

“Speaking of Daddy,” I say. “Where the heck are Eric and Dave?”

“Eric and your brother finished up early and headed over to the party. They’re meeting us there.”

“Okay.” I hesitate. “So you don’t, um, have my phone, right?”

“Nope!” Alex says cheerfully. “You’ll have to wait five more minutes to get your baby back. Eric left this for you, though.” She reaches into her laptop bag and pulls out a big manila envelope. FOR BESS, it reads. These are the big emergency items from your week away. Do not open this until after the party! No cheating! We have a deal.

When I squeeze the envelope, I realize it’s awfully thick. I lay it down on the seat beside me while the limo inches forward in traffic.

I last at least ten seconds before I grab it off the seat and slip my finger under the flap, tearing it open.

“Uh-oh,” Alex says. “I thought you weren’t supposed to—”

“Shh!” I hiss. “Don’t rat me out, okay? Girl code.” I pull the pages out of the envelope. The top one says. GOT YOU! And when I flip to the one beneath, it reads, THERE WEREN’T ANY EMERGENCIES. And the one beneath that says, NOW YOU OWE ME A SUSHI LUNCH.

“Goddamn it!” I squeak. “Your man is such a jerk!”

“What did he… Oh my God.” Alex covers her mouth and laughs. “I’m sorry. That is so rude.”

“This is entrapment,” I sputter. “This would never stand up in court.”

“Oh, Bess,” Alex says. “How did you not see that coming?”

I drop the envelope onto the leather seat in disgust. “That’s just mean. I didn’t even cheat on this vacation. I didn’t look at my email, or even at the hockey news.”

For the first time since I’d started my own business six years ago, I’d left it all behind for ten days in Vermont with my brother and sister-in-law. It was time for me to make some changes in my life, and the vacation had been a first symbolic step.

Alex grabs the envelope and shoves it back in her bag. Then she pulls out her phone. “I’m texting him to tell him that we’re almost there. And also—as referee—that I consider this an illegal maneuver.”

“So illegal.” I pout.

She tucks the phone away and smiles at me. “Don’t be mad at Eric. He’s on your side.”

“I know,” I admit. “And you can take the boy out of the locker room, but you can’t take the locker room out of the boy.” Pranking people is a basic life skill in professional sports.

“Eric will have to make it up to you. Ask him for something fancy for your birthday. Are you doing anything special tomorrow?”

My birthday. The big 3-0. Honestly, I’m trying not to dwell on it. “My brother is taking me out for dinner. And then he’ll head back to Vermont the following day.”

“Make Dave take you to a musical,” Alex suggests. “The Book of Mormon is funny.”

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