Five years earlier, Abigail and Zoey had met at Fiskle & Hughes Advertising Agency. Abigail was assistant to the VP of Marketing, and Zoey wrote press releases and ad copy for the Art Director. Their cubicles were adjacent and situated just outside the offices of their respective bosses whose doors remained ajar when they were actually seated at their desks and not traveling for work. The girls were sure to keep their all-day-chat-fest relegated to company e-mail. Aside from the occasional audible chuckle—causing one of the bosses to poke a curious head out—there was virtually no sign that the two were interfacing: At least, Abigail and Zoey never thought so. Until the day they were both called in for a meeting with the head of HR, Russ Dewey. Seeing the printed transcripts of the last six months of their electronic exchanges in a heap on Russ’s desk was vomit-worthy.
“I didn’t know you two ladies were such fashion experts,” Russ said.
He cleared his throat and proffered a snide smirk, humoring only himself. In an exaggerated, sweeping manner he straightened both the papers and his posture. His expression was that of a poised librarian, trying to conjure the authority (and relevance) of a pit boss watching over a high-stakes card table.
Zoey’s stomach flipped. She looked over at Abigail for solace who remained unchanged, staring straight back at Russ as if challenging him to a duel.
“Abigail, you work for the Vice President of Marketing. Do you not?” Russ said, removing his glasses and raising an eyebrow which appeared as if it was being pulled by a clear thread hanging from the ceiling.
“Yes. I do. Is that why you called me in here? Because you aren’t sure of my job title?”
Zoey wanted to kick Abigail but she wouldn’t have been able to do so without Russ seeing.
“Is it not in the best interest of the Marketing Department to not only protect but push our company’s brand? Don’t answer that. That was what we call a ‘rhetorical’ question.”
Russ was as smug as they came. “I wonder what your esteemed leader would think to learn you have been making snide remarks about her polyester sweater sets every morning for the last two years. Clothing, I might add, that is paid for and pushed by our organization which contain our company logo and slogan. Monies that are carefully allocated into the budget for the Marketing Department."
Zoey shifted in her seat. She wore a too-snug wool skirt that day—A few years back, she made the grave mistake of not letting it air-dry. (*Note to self: The dryer is not a friend to anything wool.) It was now borderline too short to be considered appropriate for an office setting, but all her suitable work clothes were piled in a mountain at the bottom of her closet, waiting to be taken to the cleaners.
After a paused, reproachful glare at Abigail, Russ turned his attention over to Zoey who wondered if the sweat pouring from her thighs would eventually make her slip straight off the pleather chair.
“Do you have anything you wish to say for yourself?” Russ said.
Zoey was unable to speak and just shook her head with ardor: No. Not really. May I go now?
Zoey was snapped back to the present as she scorched her tongue tasting Abigail’s tomato sauce. The wooden spoon darted to the floor. She ran to the faucet and filled her cupped hands with cool water to soothe the flames in her mouth.
The squeak of the front door announced Abigail’s returned. Zoey quickly retrieved the spoon to rinse it and wipe up the sauce. She swiped her brow with the back of one hand and cradled her mixing bowl, wondering if the bubbles sprouting in the scone batter was a good or bad thing.
Abigail entered the kitchen.
“Hey…..can you take a look at this and tell me if it looks okay?” Zoey said.
“I have to tell you something!” Abigail emitted her words in a breathy, whispered scream.
Zoey was focused in on the super-sized California frozen pizza Abigail was balancing on both arms.
“You hate frozen pizza? What is this?”
“Forget the pizza. You are not going to believe who is here.” Abigail leaned over to whisper into her ear. “Kristy.”
Zoey’s mind went blank. Her attention was drawn downward as a sole from one of Abigail’s Tory Burch flats tapped against the linoleum flooring like a ticking clock.
Oh, God, no. It can’t be.
Zoey stopped mixing. Somehow, the bowl felt twice as heavy in her arms. She steadied herself to keep from dropping it onto her bare feet.
“Been a long time, woman.”
“Kristy?” Zoey said. Funny how one could stretch a two-syllable name out like a piece of taffy. “Umm, hi.” She placed the bowl onto the counter to receive a hug from her old friend.
Kristy dug her fingers into Zoey’s back with earnest. “I missed you so much! It’s been too long.”
Zoey was too stunned to offer the same (which would have been a lie, anyway.) Abigail shot Zoey the “I-know-can-you-even-believe-it look. Zoey answered back with the “No-I-cannot-and-how-did-this-happen” face.
“So. I was leaving Duane Reade and Kristy was just outside,” Abigail said. Zoey could tell she was holding back; it must have been one hell of a scene.
“Ha! And good thing you were there. I never would have been able to carry all those groceries home. Speaking of which….” Kristy walked over to a Trader Joe’s shopping bag brimming with items. “You guys mind if I put some things in your fridge?”
Zoey was incredulous. Two minutes in and she was already making herself at home.
“Here let me,” Abigail said.
Zoey didn’t know what to do with herself. Picking up the mixing bowl seemed futile and silly at this point. As far as she was concerned, scones weren’t all that appealing to begin with— blueberry or otherwise.
“What smells so good?” Kristy said, bounding over to the stovetop like a curious toddler. “Don’t tell me you finally learned how to cook, Z.”
Zoey’s likeness or disdain for a person was commensurate with how much it irked her when one shortened her name to “Z”—when Kristy said it, she wanted to pluck her eyelashes out, one by one.
“I’m making spinach and wild mushroom lasagna rolls,” Abigail said. “Our superstar chef is on dessert duty tonight.”
Abigail walked over to Zoey’s abandoned mixing bowl. She began spooning the batter in that imperiously, scrutinizing manner of a chef.
Zoey gave Abigail the “So-I-am-guessing-the-bubbles-are-not-a-good-thing” look. And Abigail answered back with “No-they-are-not-why-did-I-think-you-could-do-this” face.
The metal lid from the sauce pot tapped against the stovetop. Both girls watched in awe as Kristy dipped the wooden spoon into the pot, helping herself to a taste.
Suzanne Simonetti grew up in the New York suburbs just outside of the city and earned a BS in Marketing. After several years of writing press releases, she left her corporate job and dusty cubicle to focus on her passion for writing novels. She is currently working on her next book at her home on the Cape May Harbor shared with her husband and a spirited pod of dolphins. Stay tuned for details on Suzanne’s debut novel, THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN.