Snow is falling in a way that can only be described as romantic. Well, would be if there wasn’t approximately 90 inches on the ground already. Gazing out the window of her high rise office building on Wood St., Mary sighs and starts tapping her pen, absolutely oblivious to the eyes locked on her.
From across the room, Thomas watches her from his desk like she’s his last hope for redemption on earth. She very well might be, but she doesn’t know it. He doesn’t have that much time left in Pittsburgh. But before any conclusions are jumped to, he’s not dying; he just needs to go home. Back to duty, back to responsibility, and back to a life so unlike this one. This vacation is nearly over. He too sighs as he takes in her curly brown hair pulled away from her porcelain face with one of the many headbands she wears. He watches as her dark sultry eyes turn away from the window and she looks back at her computer. His heart thuds a little harder every day he sees her, and breaks a smidgen every day he doesn’t tell her.
She stops tapping and puts the end of the pen in her mouth so she can rub her eyes with both hands. “Shoot”. She often forgets that she is wearing makeup, and today, like many others, has smeared her mascara all under her eyes. She throws her pen on her desk and bends to get the Kleenex box out, wiping the black away. Pens, in Mary’s world, are frivolous; she just keeps them around out of habit. Their function is strictly reserved to tapping, chewing and throwing. Everything she does, from to do lists, to clandestine messages is through Google. Or on a headset.
That God-forsaken headset.
The one that leaves her hair with an unfortunate line every day unless she has a headband in. The one that she ruins and makes some client’s days with. The one that, once a day, she contemplates dropping in a toilet and watching it flush out of her life. Working in customer service is a serious emotional hazard, but they don’t post that as a part of the job summary.
It’s been 3 years, 4 days, 5 hours and 32, no 33 minutes.
She also gets a kick in numbers and counting. Why not? Everyone has a weird habit, right?
Every morning, as of recent, has her gazing into her Starbucks latte, wondering if she’ll ever leave Pittsburgh. She can’t shake the dreams of New York and the Hamptons and some old money handsome stranger sweeping her away. Or the one where she’s stopped at a T station by a military looking man, and is told she looks exactly like a princess from some far away country in the former USSR (because who knows all of those countries anyways). The princess has run away, and now they need Mary to take her spot and marry the most handsome of princes (who will turn out to be her true love).
Yes. She’s 28 and still thinks like a teenager.
Maybe it’s because all of her relationships to date have been less than fruitful. The string started at a very young engagement broken by a cheating fiancée and most recently ended with her boyfriend being sent to jail on charges of fraud. How was she to know that a bank teller didn’t make enough money to finance a Porche? They were all mistakes, from the first to the last. Deep down, she knows that she didn’t pay enough attention to them because she didn’t love any of them.
She folds the Kleenex once over and wipes under the other eye. She looks at the calendar on her computer desktop and sees that it’s the week of Valentine’s Day. OMG. Valentine’s Day. She quickly glances over at Thomas when she hears a:
Opening the Google window, she sees Thomas has sent her a message. She smiles and thinks, Kismet. She doesn’t hide this time as she stretches her neck up to see him focused on his own computer, his light hair and high forehead all that is visible.
Happy hour? Hofbrauhaus?
Thomas had made an immediate impression on her, and every other female in the office, when he first came to the company. He now works in sales and his perfect posture, high cheek bones, light blue eyes, accented speech and less than clear past have always had her wondering if he is a prince from Germany; but with her luck in men, he’s more likely be an escaped convict or even gay. In either case, he is a beautiful specimen of a man, and reminds her of everything she’s ever wanted. Many a night in the last 2 years, 9 days, and 4 hours with a less than clear minute count (because she’d taken to day-dreaming about him when he first came) she’d dreamt of him taking her in his arms and kissing her like she mattered. But, no matter how many soft advances she’d put out there (in the first year), he didn’t so much as budge romantically in her direction, or anyone’s, except to go to happy hours with the office. More recently though (8 months, 3 weeks, 2 days and maybe 6 hours), starting with random coffee or sushi outings, they’d taken to hanging out, just the two of them. But no kissy kissy.
In her scrutinizing of him, she’s learned that he’s hiding something, and his face twists just so when he catches himself about to tell her about his past. Hence, the idea that he’s an escaped prince convict. She’s decided that she doesn’t care either way. She’s also noticed that he rarely talks with his hands, but when he tells a funny story, a dimple in his right cheek comes out and his hands fly about. He can make her laugh like no other. Sadly though, a common product of their going out is an intense loneliness which hits when they eventually part for the evening. She isn’t sure if it is general loneliness or missing him specifically, but more often than not, she has a sinking feeling it is just him.
She puts her hands down, and twists the blackened Kleenex in her hands, wondering if she feels like torturing herself tonight. She reaches up and touches her hair. It looks decent today. So yeah, Heck, why not?
He sees the response and a slow blush runs its way from his neck to the top of his head. Tonight’s the night he’s going to tell her. Now it’s just a matter of how.
Later on that day- Pre-happy hour
Mary hums to herself, that Tonight’s gonna be a good night, ‘night’s gonna be a good good night, as she fixes her lip gloss and adds some color to her face. She lines and mascaras her eyes, looking good as new. Even if he doesn’t want her for any kind of, well, relationship, that doesn’t mean that he has to sit there looking at her looking like crap. As she’s brushing her hair she hears a tinkering voice, one that puts her on edge no matter what hour of the day,
“Hey Mar, where you heading?”
She looks behind her in the mirror to see Linda, and her insides growl with possessiveness. Linda with her perfect blue eyes and perfect curly hair and perfect manicured nails. Linda, in Mary’s head, is everything she is not. And in her head, a battle rages:
What do I say?
Tell her the truth.
But then, what if she comes?
What if he falls madly in love with her and asks me to be his best man?
Wait isn’t that a movie? Yes totally, it is a movie, the one with Patrick Dempsey.
I didn’t like it.
No, neither did I…
Does she want my Thomas? Does he want her?
“My Thomas.” The words are out of her mouth in a whisper before she can slap her hand on it to keep them in. The look on Linda’s face screams, This chick is Crazzzzzyyyy. Then with one perfectly waxed eyebrow cocked up, she says,
“I’m sorry, what? My Thomas? Is it new?” In her head, Mary slaps her own forehead with enough power to knock her eyeballs to the back of her occipital lobe.
“Jeeze sorry, no, I mean, we’re going to Hofbrauhaus. You’re more than welcome to come.” Linda takes on a mischievous ‘I was once a cheerleader and thus am still better than you’ look.
“You know. I think I will, and I’ll see if anyone else wants in.” She pivots on her heel and whirls out, “Toodles!”
Mary has a sinking feeling that tonight will most definitely NOT be a good night.
Southside Works is completely dead and the sidewalks are piled up to heaven with snow. Thomas is despairing. Mary asked nearly half of the office to come with them to happy hour. What is up with that? She’s trudging next to him silently as they walk with nearly 12 other people from the office, including the witch, Linda. Seeing Linda and hearing her high pitched voice makes him want to vomit on a regular basis. It’s dramatic but true. She’s thrown herself at him a few times; well, to be honest, more than a few times. At first it was flattering, then he caught whiff of her low self esteem and cattiness and made sure she understood under no uncertain terms that “there’s no way in hell Linda that we’ll ever be anything except co-workers”. It was the most firm he’d been with anyone in America, and it left him reminded that one day he’d have to return home to the islands. He looks over at the woman he’s grown to love everything about and takes in her furrowed eyebrows. A feeling of tenderness fills him and he wants to kiss away the frown. Repressing the urge, they walk on.
Entering the first set of doors, a stream of German drinking songs assaults their ears. Mary is still wearing the frown and the others have just found a table in the surprisingly filled hall. Half of Pittsburgh is shut down because of the snow and it looks like the entire population is here. Linda waves over to them and Mary abruptly turns away from her with a deeper scowl.
“Let’s grab drinks at the bar.”
Stifling a smile, Thomas follows her.
“I want the special. Uhh. Adulterator.” Mary blushes as she says it. This modesty is something he originally thought was fake, for who in America is truly modest? But from watching and listening to her, he learned that it wasn’t fake, and now it’s something he absolutely adores about her. February’s special is a particularly strong doppelbock, served only in half pints because of the alcohol level. He debates for a moment, and settles for an old favorite,
“I’ll take the Dunkel.” As they wait for their pours, they watch as their sales/customer service departments, go up for shotskis.
7 shotskis later, the count is up 2 pints for Mary and 4 four Thomas. All of their company is a little worse for wear and a little looser for tongue.
Linda drunkenly saunters over, “You know Thoooommasssss, Mary here has got quite. Ahhhh thing. Foryou.” She stabs him in the chest with her wavering finger and Mary doesn’t blink. Instead, she tells Linda to go away with a number of explicative words tucked in here and there. Linda eyes her like a wet cat, and shrugs.
“Whatever, My. Thomas.” And as cruel Linda spits out those words, Mary realizes she’d like to die. Right now. Melt into a puddle and drain away into the snow to be thawed in spring. A shocked Thomas and a now teary eyed Mary watch as blonde curls bounce away from their spot at the bar. Mary turns back to the bar, staring at the copper vessels and having no idea what to say.
“Mary.” Thomas is gently shaking her arm to get her attention. “Mare, look at me please.”
She turns and in a terse tone says, “What?”
“Well what?” She’s angry at Linda or maybe at herself. In either case, she’s not totally sober enough to be polite.
He stands, assessing her with a sobered expression. Before she understands what is happening, he puts his right hand on her left cheek, cupping it with the most delicate touch. He takes a step closer and bends down and kisses her. Sheer shock runs through her body, leaving her fizzing with excitement and hope. He breaks away and she inhales his scent. Beer and Burberry. It will forever be stamped into her head as being her favorite smell ever.
“Well, if I’m your Thomas, then you’re my Mary.”
She looks up at him and smiles, having no idea she was kissed by the future Prime Minister of the Faroe Islands. She also has no idea that in a few short months (4 months, 3 days, 2 hours and 27 minutes), she will be going with him, as his fiancée, to be presented to Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, the reigning monarch of the Faroe Islands.
All she knows, is that tonight wasn’t a good night, it was a great one.
She hears the drinking song start again and without a response, she reaches up and kisses him, letting him know that he’s the only thing that matters.