She strode with seams exploding and heels ticking as she rammed toward the turnstile. One hip thrust against the silent steal sentinel, the other freeing itself into the open space that separated yesterday from today.
Compelled toward the elevator, Vanessa strode one three-and-a-half foot long leg after the other. A Vogue fashion model could not have commanded the space any better. As she approached the elevator, the pin striped suit-clad executives parted to allow the flow to pour into the opening elevator space. Her height elongated by her three-inch Jimmy Choo metallic silver shoes had the pin stripes looking up to her! With her right French manicured finger tips she pressed the 30th floor button. The other leg-to-arm proportioned hand grasps the handle of her Prada file brief-sized leather bag.
No glance into the mirrored walls was necessary; experience taught her that all was perfectly assembled.
Preparation for her day had begun at 5:00 as usual. Her daily run followed by a shower, six days a week for fifteen years. Her exercise regime reflected her continual desire for excellence in all things. Jerome’s lessons fell on fertile ground. His daughter absorbed and followed the self-discipline regiment he drilled. So today’s preparation was rote and effortless.
Her Dead Sea Salt scrub was followed by an almond oil application. Reaching out of the marble and glass shower, the left hand homed in on the Egyptian towel that rested on its cooper hook. Chestnut hair wrapped in another white towel, three steps toward the mirror and the expert right hand retrieved the retinal crème, and then moisturizer.
Beneath the left solid oak paneled door, the blow dryer gave way to her hands. Everything in its place. She could hear his baritone voice.
Experience delivered the strokes necessary to perfectly complete the swinging free design into that “I hardly touched my hair” look. Make-up applied with several swift and calculated moves. Three lines drawn, and the lipstick brush filled in the spaces with her signature Channel “Dazzling” lip color: pout, press, done. A Comanche warrior could not have been more exacting before his last battle.
“Hell, I’ll write a new chapter at Pratt and Pratt,” she blurted out to herself in the gold trimmed Art Deco mirror.
Vanessa flashed back to her first day at Pratt and Pratt Design Consultants. Her innocence, giftedness, and creative energy were evident from the moment that she stepped with enthusiasm from the elevator on the 30th floor of the Riverside Holten Building. She had waited since her early teens to be a part of the design industry. Her Barbie doll houses had been designed by her architect father and her artistic mother. Little Vannie loved to make curtains, rugs, and furniture with the fabulous scraps that she collected at the feet of her parent’s drafting table and easels that proudly stood on the Brazilian cherry wood floors of their 18th Century town house.
Words like “too challenging” sent this precious little designer into her, “Oh, no it’s not,” mode. Dreams of Carnegie Mellow School of Design filled her thoughts day and night. While other children were learning to skateboard, Vannie was drafting, painting and designing. Joy and delight were the hours spent at the side of her parents.
“She’ll wish she never uttered those words to me!” The thin tapered finger snapped the gold medal cap back onto the lipstick tube. How could anyone challenge her integrity? She had never copied anyone’s ideas; she prided herself in her ability to see as Marcel Proust recommended, “with new eyes.”
An abrupt turn and naked feet strode to the closet. One, two, three, the clothes that she strategically selected the night before were splayed out like armor. Leaning over she coxed her breast into a crimson half-cupped lace edged bra. The matching silk camisole, with its tiny ribbon straps, glided over her wire cupped breast, and exposed just a hint of the fullness that lay beneath. The camisole fell into place without disturbing her hair.
The hound-tooth pencil skirt smoothed effortlessly over her hips. Zip, teeth not tugging nor straining to close. Hands smoothing out the wool as she pivoted for the full-length cheval mirror.
“Take that you callous, hypocritical, never-had-an-original idea of your own vampire!” Her lips spoke to the imaginary face of the pale skinned blood sucker that must be slain.
“I am the Torch Bearer; the bringer of truth. And the torch bearer needs just the right shoes.” Expert eyes scanned the rows and hone in on the metallic silver pumps.
“Yes, Choo stilettos. That gives me a slight edge.”
It was those extra three inches that put her head above many of the pin-striped suits that stood in the elevator at 9:55 A.M., this Friday, September 2012.
“Bling.” The sound roused her. She readied herself for action, and let her left three-and-a- half length leg lead the way. Fifteen years of practice eased her into the well appointed entry space.
She’d selected the Ebi-cha brown leather Somba sectional sofa that graced the top of the Barcelona-inspired patterned area rug. The look was minimalist with a softness that caught the breath of all as they stepped off of that frequently traveled elevator. Many powerful people had visited this inspirational space, and they caught the smell of success as they stepped onto the cobalt, persimmon, and dandelion geometric pattern area rug.
Forty five steps to the receptionist, Georges’. She hired him when he arrived in America.
“Excuse me, Ms. Wollenski……..” there was a pause that could be heard down and into the lobby, “May I help you?” Georges’ expression was that of a child watching his parents arguing at a civil case to determine who will have custody. His usually salty blue eyes leaked a small salty substance that he willed not to drop down his sandstone, smooth, amber skin. He loved this nurturing woman who trusted him even when he described the difficulties with his immigration papers. He’d come to America to learn design from the best. Ms. Wollenski had contacted a few influential people and helped him acquire his green card. Now he sat there, the gate keeper, barring the entrance from his mentor; this was more than he could stand. Even though his English was impeccable, he stammered, and his intense walnut eyes fell to a spec of lint on his pants, “ I…I…. I am so very sorry Ms.Wollenski….I’ve been told not to admit you.”
A smart woman knows how to maneuver past obstacles. Without a word she pushed those Jimmy Choe’s in the direction of Amanda’s office and said over her muscular left shoulder, “ Not to worry; I’ll tell Ms. Blake I ramrodded through.
Five steps, and she was at the door. Those familiar glass and steel Neoport doors with the smooth stainless steel handle, left hand grabs and turns, and she stood in her former office.
“Why Vanessa, what a surprise!” Amanda’s lips shaped the words neatly and effortlessly, while her ice-water blue eyes scanned the room, almost like she was expecting a committee from the Pentagon to be present. She loved having an audience; and none was there to support her next performance.
Vanessa took two more steps and was standing over Amanda, a full head and shoulders above her. “Explain yourself.” A two-word command was all that was necessary.
“Explain what?” Amanda inched away from the talking monument. She stepped back behind the elliptical desk, her candy-red-squared fingernail tapping on the glass top. Rat, tat, tat…..the drumming of an impatient mother in front of the microwave waiting for that re-warmed cup of coffee.
“Surely someone had notified security. I’ll just take a few moments…” Amanda’s inner voice stalled. Her radar senses were failing her for the very first time. She had catapulted herself to the top by passing others, making no friends, now there was no one to support her. The silence was as thick as the ice on a Wisconsin pond in February. Her breath caught in her throat. “Breathe,” she heard herself silently saying. “Stand up, breathe.” Those were the commands that she heard from Master Lee. She flashed back to her self defense classes. “Let your opponent move first. Use his force to respond.”
Vanessa rallied in the silence. Her years of yoga and meditation served her well. She waited for Amanda’s response. No need to repeat the question. She had heard. She knew Amanda was hoping that she would say more.
She stood there like a sentry at the gates of the Royal Palace in London.
Tap,rat,rat, tap…the drumming lost it’s rhythm and became a random staccato beat. Impatience was her down fall, according to Master Lee, her Karate instructor.
“You know exactly why you were suspended by the board. Your unethical behavior resulted in your license suspension,” Amanda pronounced as though she were a bailiff reading the charges against the defendant.
“Would you describe MY unethical behavior?” Vanessa countercharged.
“I believe that the unethical person is standing behind that desk,” the words spat out one-at-a-time.
“Keep her talking, she will ultimately betray herself.” Vanessa held her right hand over her left still clutching her brief case. She slowly walked to the Italian leather sofa, eased herself down, crossed one elegant leg over the other, and placed her bag on the left side of the glass and steal table.
The morning sun was bounding off of the table and sending semi-fore notes about the room. Vanessa eased herself back into the leather. She had spent many nights catching quick naps on this sofa as she completed projects. She was at home, everything about her she had collected and delicately placed in this space. It was Amanda who was an anomaly on unfamiliar carpet, and her unease was growing with each of the forced inhalations she took. Her blood pressure was rising. She hadn’t expected this so soon after the debacle.
How long ago was it that Amanda had conceived “The Scheme”? It began when she first walked into Venessa’s office as an intern. She immediately coveted the yellow desk and inhaled the leather scent, the smell of power. To Amanda, it reminded her of her father’s aftershave; a blending of forest glade on a wintry dawn, when the game startles to alertness. The mixture of burning oak, candied orange zest, and s’mores. Paul Mc Williams, brilliant entrepreneur, realtor who could lead others on a forward charge to success.
Amanda folded her sugar-polished tanned left arm over her right with the slight tinkle of the bracelet that her father gave to her when she graduated from high school. The symbol for mercury hung from the mallet silver fence-link bracelet. Amanda interpreted the mercuric symbol as an amulet, a source of unlimited power. She grasped the charm in her left palm as she clamped her square jaw and flashed through the card catalogue of her mind searching for the proper reply.
Nothing came. Amanda’s shocked oval face flashed for an instant. It was the face of a child whose Christmas present is a box of socks.
Vanessa, the pro at body language, knew she had her.
“So, are you thinking that you have no response to my question?” Vanessa pronounced each syllable with quiet, perfect enunciation. Amanda’s face and mind sprung back into the poker face her father had taught her.
“The person standing behind THIS desk has the position that you want. The position that you carved out of this company inch-by-inch for me to fill,” Amanda spit these words out clearly, deliberately, meshing her charm into her palm with such force that she grimaced and released her grip.
“Your confidence is premature. I have already met with seven of the eleven board members. They have my original plans dated six months before your submitted my plan as your to Drs. Matthews for the Hospital Sinclair. It’s only a matter of time before….”
The intercom buzzed, buzzed, buzzed….
Amanda smashed the gray button. “Yes!” she said tersely.
“The President of the Board said that he wants to see you in his office in five minutes,” Brenda, the brilliant office manager, said, with a smile in her voice.