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Valentine’s Day & Chocolates
© by Peggy Randall-Martin
The day at work was the kind that made me feel like pulling everyone’s hair out, but five o’clock was only minutes away … one last trip to the ladies’ room and the big hand would be on the ‘5.’ I pushed open the door and went in the first stall, and heard the restroom door open again.
“Did you see the dress she wore today?”
I recognized the voice; it belonged to Shelly, the woman who occupied the cubicle next to mine.
“She wears clothes no one else would wear.”
That voice was also familiar to me … Gail, Shelly’s friend.
“I tried to ‘friend’ her on Facebook just to see if she had any friends,” Shelly said.
“So, what happened?” Gail asked.
“Either she doesn’t have a page, or she blocked me.”
“Oh, I doubt that. But I have been hearing some things about her,” Shelly said.
“What kind of things?”
“Mary Ellen in H.R. says she saw her insurance claims, and she’s going to a doctor … the kind where you lay on a couch.”
Gail laughed. “You mean she’s a nut job. Well, duh, everyone already knows that.”
“Maybe her shrink will have her committed,” Shelly said.
“Oh please, we should be so lucky.”
I hadn’t needed to use the facilities, and had come in the ladies’ room to try and pull myself together before I started the drive home. And I knew who Shelly and Gail were talking about. Her name was Lacy, and just days ago, her fiancé was killed in a car accident.
I opened the stall door as quietly as possible, and my sudden reflection in the mirror that Shelly and Gail were preening in front of startled both of them.
“My, my,” I said, “with friends like you, Lacy certainly …”
“We’re not friends with her,” Shelly said.
“Knock me over with a feather,” I said. “You could’ve fooled me.”
Gail turned away from the mirror and squared her shoulders. “Morgan, why don’t you mind your own business?”
“Sorry, I forgot. You and Shelly have the corner on that market,” I said.
“Haven’t you seen how Lacy’s been moping around ever since Jeff died?” Shelly asked. “She’s taking advantage of the limelight.”
“You don’t really believe that,” I said.
Shelly couldn’t resist sneaking a glance at her persona in the mirror, and shifted her stance for a better look. “Morgan, Gail and I know who sent Lacy the flowers and box of chocolates.”
I backed up against the countertop and folded my arms. “Really … who sent them?”
“You are so naïve. Lacy sent them to herself,” Gail said, “and signed her deceased beloved’s name to the card.”
“She did?” I asked. “And you know that how?”
Shelly rolled her eyes, and Gail laughed.
“I’m waiting,” I said.
“Who else would send them to her?” Shelly asked.
Gail moved closer to me and put her hands up. “Then, Lacy looked so stricken. She’s hardly done any work. All she’s done since the goodies were delivered is stand at the window by her desk, staring out like a drama queen.”
I was getting angry, and could feel heat rise up my neck and light up my cheeks. “Jeff was on a business trip, and before he left, he made arrangements for the roses and chocolates to be delivered to Lacy on Valentine’s Day. That night, Jeff’s car skidded off an interstate just across the Kansas state line, and he was killed. Highway Patrol said black ice was at fault.”
Shelly sneered and looked at Gail for support. “I don’t know how you think you know that, but that photo of what’s supposed to be Lacy’s fiancée came with the picture frame.”
The fuse on my temper was burning short, and I fought to keep it under control. “You never met Jeff, did you ... neither one of you. Jeff was a nice looking man, and that photo looks just like him. And I know about the flowers and the chocolates because he confided in me.”
It felt like my throat was closing, and I took a deep breath before continuing. “Do you know that Lacy heard you talking about her when she received the gifts Jeff sent her? Do you have any idea what she is going through? No, you don’t, and I don’t think you care … Jeff had to be buried in a closed casket.”
Shelly started to reply, but Gail stopped her.
“You’re serious, aren’t you?” Gail asked.
“Very serious,” I said.
When Shelly spoke, her voice was strangely quiet. “But Lacy never said anything to us.”
“No, Shelly, she wouldn’t. Lacy isn’t that kind of person … she’s different than you and Gail.”
Neither woman would look at me, but I wasn’t finished. “The two of you are leftover schoolyard bullies who never got over the thrill of sending someone to the nurse’s office in tears. Lacy is devastated. The love of her life is gone, and you two - tormenting her for sport.”
It got so quiet in the bathroom that we could hear Mr. Johnson’s last minute instructions to his secretary two doors down.
For a moment the women avoided eye contact with me and each other.
I sighed, feeling my anger start to subside. Of course, they didn’t understand. They were both too short-sighted to see past their small minded, sophomoric ideas of who ‘fit in’ and who didn’t.
Gail wiped tears from her face. “We didn’t mean ... Morgan, we didn’t know.”
Shelly fluffed her hair, and I resisted the urge to help her … but it was Gail that responded. She put her hands on Shelly’s shoulders.
“Come on, Shelly, let the ice melt,” Gail said.
Many times I had comforted Lacy when she wept, and I thought all my tears were dried up. But I was wrong. When Shelly began to cry, it was like a river of emotion, long overdue. Gail held onto her, and I started to step aside. But both women reached out to me, and we clung to each other.
My legs were weak and the weight of the other two women brought the three of us to our knees. And I was surprised when Shelly stood up and started for the door. “Come on.” She beckoned to us, and we followed her, not knowing she was going to Lacy’s cubicle … not knowing her intentions.
Shelly was unpredictable, and a show of sympathy would be out of character for her, and when she walked up behind Lacy, I held my breath and let it out slowly when Shelly put her arms around Lacy.
Lacy turned and released a flood of tears. Then we all had our arms around her and around each other, sobbing. We sobbed for Lacy, her lost love, the pain she was going through, and the debilitating agony that loose, cutting tongues and idle gossip can cause.
Copyright © 2014 by Peggy Randall-Martin
All rights reserved, including the right of
reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, and incidents either are products of
the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any
resemblance to actual events or locales or persons,
living or dead, is entirely coincidental.