Scene Two – When She Gets Hot

By the time Tootsie arrived at the radio station and had pulled into her assigned space in the parking lot, she was no longer thinking about her latest parking ticket. She was thinking about what mess she’d be dealing with. Since Robert took over WCLS, mess was on her plate every Monday morning.

Juggling her purse, briefcase, and the latte she’d picked up at the Starbucks drive-through across the street, she shoved open the door to the station with her shoulder and ran into a soft body.

“Hey, Toots.”

Tootsie gasped. “Fern!”

A bright, shiny smile wreathing her round face, Fern planted a kiss on Tootsie’s cheek. “I wanted to be the first one to wish you a happy birthday.”

“Only if you’d called me in the middle of the night could you have been first.”

“Huh?” Consternation marked Fern’s rosy cheeks, and then cleared. “Listen, I know you’ve been dreading this day, but believe me, it’s not so bad.”

“The mere thought of today is like acid reflux after a bagel with lox and cream cheese. And can you tell me why exactly we’re hanging out in the doorway?” She took a couple of side steps past Fern into the radio station lobby and stopped.

Because… They weren’t alone.

There on the couch, sitting where people visiting the radio station waited for appointments, a man. A silent man. All in black. 

She gave Fern the look that said, ‘who is this guy’? She got back an eyes-only ‘I haven’t got a clue’. Tootsie turned toward the visitor. “Can I help you?” She was the radio station’s marketing director, and part of her job was to be welcoming. Even with men who gave off the ‘I don’t need your welcome’ vibe.

He came to his feet and she did a double take. Folded up on the couch, he looked normal-sized. Standing, he was tall, really tall. And holy Hannah, was he the whole package or what? Very fit. Wide shoulders. Narrow waist. Long legs. In a quiet voice, he said, “No. I’m good.”

Goose bumps went skipping down Tootsie’s spine. In his black windbreaker, open over a black T-shirt, black cargo pants with all those little pockets, and black laced-up boots, he was more than a man. He was a presence. With a capital P.

Which left her reeling, which she was not all right with because as he stood there, unblinking black eyes under black eyebrows fixed on her, it was like he was assessing whether she was a—

Threat. She blinked and her heat index went from medium to high and her curls melted on the back of her neck. She righted her latte which—maybe because her hand had begun to twitch—was about to overflow and scorch her skin. Putting on her best fake smile, she said, “Well, I’m sure when our receptionist arrives he’ll let whoever you’re here to see know you’re waiting.”

As he nodded, she kept the smile pasted on her mouth. Without looking away from him and his black eyes, which seriously, she was not going to think of as smoldering, she nudged Fern. “Do you mind holding the door for me?”

Fern, who seemed to have been caught in the man’s tractor-beam stare, jerked into motion. “Oh, sorry.” She scooted up to the plate glass door that separated the lobby from the business part of the radio station, her tie-dyed, floor-length skirt swishing around her ample hips. She held out her keycard, and stepped aside for Tootsie to pass through. “Oh my God,” Fern whispered. “That guy gives me the jitters.”

Tootsie strode past the empty cubicles where, ordinarily, the station’s sales people would be sitting, continued on past the general manager’s office, and made a left down the hallway. The man in black didn’t give Tootsie the jitters. Jitters weren’t the reason her nipples were pushing holes through her black mock turtleneck.

Nope.

He might be Mr. Sex on a Stick—and oh, Lord, he was—but between the time she spotted him and he came to his feet, she knew. He was a cop. Not a cop like good-natured, longtime friend, Brian. No, she knew. He was the kind of cop who did things she—She stopped the thought before it could form. She wasn’t going there, now. “Who is he?” 

“I don’t know and I don’t want to talk about him anymore,” Fern said. “So I’m changing the subject. Did you get the application for your AARP card yet?”

Tootsie came to a halt in the middle of the hallway. “Did you just ask me if I went in for a root canal, this morning?”

“Very funny. You should have gotten an application in the mail.”

Tootsie slogged on toward her office. “I should check, shouldn’t I? You know, run right home, tear through my mail, find it, and fill out every little line.” She stopped, turned, and narrowed her eyes at Fern. “I’ll press really hard with my pen and carefully enter each number of the year I was born.”

Fern sighed. “Would it be too much to expect you to lose the sarcasm, missy? You shouldn’t be moaning about turning 50. It’s not old.”

Tootsie flinched. “Well, I disagree. My hair is turning gray and my boobs are heading south. What should I expect next? Flabby arms and skin tags?”

“What are you talking about? You look fabulous. You’re still the size six you’ve always been. How many women can wear the kind of skirt you have on today, even women half your age? And don’t talk to me about your hair.  People would kill to have your curls.”

“You mean the hair I pay a fortune to color so I don’t have to look at the grays?”

Fern cocked her head to the side. “When did you start feeling sorry for yourself?”

Key out, Tootsie unlocked her door and pushed in. “At 12:01 a.m. this morning.”

Fern pushed in right behind her and headed for the chair Tootsie kept in the corner of her office nearest the windows that looked out onto the alleyway separating the radio station from the building next door. “I swear I’ve never known you to be like this, even when that miserable husband of yours left you. I’d hate to think turning fifty means you’re going to start having a pity party for yourself.” She gave Tootsie a glare, which wasn’t much of a glare, good-natured as Fern was.

Tootsie sighed. “You’re right. I apologize for whining. It’s just that turning fifty feels like something awful is waiting for me on the other side.”

“I don’t know what you mean. There are plenty of good things you get once you hit fifty. Like half-price tickets on public transportation, discounts at the movies. You know Agrigento’s on Route 3? You can get half off on their potato salad and coleslaw on Sundays when you buy a sub.”

Tootsie’s mood lightened. “I think I’ll pass. Too much mayonnaise and sugar.”

Fern made a face. “And that’s why you’re still a size six and I’m…well, I’m not going to mention what size I am.”

Tootsie gave Fern a look. “Now who’s feeling sorry for herself?”

Hanging her coat on the hook behind her door, Tootsie scooted around to the front of her desk and glanced at her phone. “I can’t believe it. No messages this morning, which is curious since Robert—”

Fern held up a finger. “Speaking of our boss from hell—”

“Yeah, him. He usually has five or six things he’s frantic for me to take care of, first thing. And by the way, when we were coming in, I couldn’t help but notice that none of the salespeople were at their desks. Is there a meeting offsite again?”

Fern angled her head toward the other end of the hallway. “No. The entire coven has been in the breakroom for the last fifteen minutes. I have no idea what’s up, but they’re doing a lot of whispering. And about Robert, I need to tell you—”

“Maybe between the four of them, they’ve come up with a brilliant new sales campaign they stole from another radio station?” Tootsie interrupted Fern, while rummaging through her desk looking for her purchase order pad.

  Fern giggled. “Are you saying our sales staff are not original thinkers?”

      Tootsie picked up the pad. “I’m saying they’re too light for heavy work and too heavy for light work.” She looked up. “Did I send you a purchase order on Friday?”

“I don’t remember seeing one. What did you need?”

“More swag for next month’s promotions.”

“I’ll look for it when I get back to my desk. Oh, and speaking of missing something, I’m bummed I missed the battle that almost happened in Robert’s office on Friday afternoon. I heard a chair almost got thrown through the window.”

Tootsie twitched, remembering. “Can you tell me why people at this radio station think having temper tantrums should be standard operation procedure? And yes, a chair almost did go through the window.”       

  Fern tee-heed. “I wish I’d been a fly on the wall at that meeting.”

     Tootsie rolled her eyes. “There for a moment I was afraid I’d gotten in the way of the chair.”

     Fern cringed. “Yikes.”

     “It makes me crazy that Robert hasn’t figured out how to manage his program director and his sales manager, who—”

“Who hate each other,” said Fern, finishing her sentence.

     “Stan would never have let the two of them carry on that way.”

“Yes, well. Stan died eight months ago, and now his darling son is in charge.”

Fern leaned an elbow on Tootsie’s desk. “I miss Stan.”

“I miss him, too.” She did. Stan Hillman had taken a chance, hired her, and given her, a woman who hadn’t worked outside the house since she’d gotten married, a job she’d needed if she’d wanted to maintain her sanity…and pay the bills.

She peeled the edge of her turtleneck away from her neck. “Who turned up the heat?”

     Fern jumped up. “I’m glad I’m not the only one.” She took a step toward the thermostat on the wall next to the door and stopped. “Oh, listen, I need to tell you—”

      “What?”

      “Robert needs to see you.”

      “What for? Or maybe he didn’t leave me any messages because he wants to lay it on me face to face.”

      “I don’t know. He just said I should tell you to join him as soon as you arrive.”

     “I better do what the man says.” Tootsie closed the drawer where she’d stashed her purse. “Where is he? In his office?”

      Fern shook her head.

      “Then where? The on-air studio?”

      “Actually not there, either. He’s in the promotions closet.”    

  In the process of rising, Tootsie sat again and just resisted laying her head down on her desk blotter. “He’s in there, again?”

Fern made a face. “Maybe this time he’s hiding out from staff members who want to throw things at his head.”

Tootsie had been right about premonitions. Robert went into the promotions closet for one reason only: when there was something he couldn’t face. She laid both hands, palms down, on her desk and levered herself up. Grabbing her to-do list—while she was in the closet, so it shouldn’t be a total loss of time, she’d check her inventory to see if there was anything else she needed Fern to order—she said, “I better head in the direction of the promotions closet.”

“I’ll walk with you.”

     “No need.” If there was a problem, even a minor one, it would take until next week for Tootsie to calm Fern. “Once I find out what’s got his panties in a twist, I’ll let you know.”

Published by Miriam Allenson

I'm an author who believes in the redeeming qualities of love, and a happily ever after!

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