Come Away With Me(5)

By: Ruth Cardello



She hadn’t expected him to be interested, but he had listened attentively and then surprised her by telling her he worked for a large jewelry chain and was always scouting for new designers. They’d exchanged phone numbers and Julia had smiled her way through her shift that day. Their meeting had been a sign. Unable to help herself, she’d called everyone back home to tell them about the opportunity. Now all I have to do is close the deal.

Smiling down at her, he leaned in closer than she was personally comfortable with, but likely necessary given the deafening level of the music. “I was getting ready to leave. I thought you’d changed your mind.”

Forcing a bright smile onto her face and shaking off the disaster the night had already been, Julia said, “Absolutely not. I was thrilled to get your call.”

“I’m glad,” he said and waved the cocktail waitress over. “Two dirty martinis.”

“I don’t actually . . .” Julia almost said “drink,” then thought better of it. What am I going to ask for? A soda? Why not go all out and order a Shirley Temple? Remember, sophisticated. Strong. Of course I drink martinis. “Thank you.”

When they were alone again, Julia said, “I brought all kinds of samples with me. These are in copper and aluminum with fake gemstones,” she said, pulling a few pieces out of her bag. “I have a couple made with more expensive materials, but I don’t like to carry them around with me. Of course, if you put in an order, all of these will be made with the highest quality materials I can afford.” Why did I add that last part? It makes me sound like . . . like who I am. An amateur. “I mean . . .”

He put his left hand down on her thigh and gave it a suggestive squeeze. “Let’s not talk business yet.”

Julia sat up, grabbed his hand, and dropped it on the table as if it were a napkin that had fallen to the seat. The ring he’d worn the day they’d met was missing, but an indent was still visible. Julia’s mood downshifted in stages: Confusion. Disbelief. Then finally, a growing understanding that was accompanied by an overwhelming surge of disappointment and anger. “I thought you were interested in my pieces.”

“I am,” he said, his eyes glittering with an interest Julia didn’t welcome. “All of them.”

Skin crawling, Julia scooted back and stood, shaking her head in revulsion. “You’re married.”

He reached forward and grabbed her forearm. “My wife doesn’t care what I do.”

Julia shoved at his hand. “Don’t touch me.”

He didn’t release her. “Come on. Sit back down. You can show me what you brought with you if it’s so important to you.”

Just then, the cocktail waitress arrived with their drinks. With her free hand, Julia picked up one of the martinis and poured it over Bill’s head. He released her arm and cursed loudly.

Opportunities only come when you’re strong enough to take them on. This is good. It’ll toughen me up. Before walking away, Julia said, “I’m not sorry I came here tonight. You know why? Because you just made me very angry, and anger is a motivating emotion.” According to her second favorite book, Stress to Success. With that, she spun and pushed her way through the crowd, hoping her bravado wouldn’t fail before she found the door.

When she approached the area where Mr. Wandering Hands was still standing, he stepped back and tapped his friends to do the same so she could pass. Bag clutched tightly and head held high, she walked through the path they’d opened for her.

“I told you she’s feisty,” Mr. Wandering Hands said to his friends. “I’m in love.”

She paused and glared at him. “You’d have a much better chance with women if you didn’t grab at them as they walk past.”

He blushed and ducked his head, and Julia guessed he was much younger than whatever his ID claimed.

Perfect way to round off the day.

Groped by a teenager. Propositioned by a married man.

And don’t forget probably fired.

Julia exited the bar, hailed a cab, and tried to stem the tears that were welling within her. I’ll grow from this tomorrow. Right now I just feel like an ass.

I’m such an idiot. That guy is probably not even a jewelry buyer. Why did I think I could do this? I’m not a businesswoman. I don’t belong in New York City. What the hell am I doing?

She entered her building and walked up the three floors to her tiny studio apartment. Her phone rang.

“Jules. I know I shouldn’t call you tonight, but I figured if you were still in your big business meeting you wouldn’t answer.”

“Hi, Dad,” Julia said sadly as she opened the door to her apartment, then closed it heavily behind her. She hung her bag on the wall hook, stepped out of her shoes, and walked toward her bed that doubled as her couch. “How’s Mom?”

Hot Read

Last Updated

Recommend

Top Books