#12 – Burning Through The Haze

March 7th, 2011


Price BoutiqueSarah was positively walking on air when she arrived at the Price building that morning.

She pushed the double-doors aside and glided into the showroom.  “Good morning, Juanita,” Sarah said half-singing as she entered.

“Good morning,” the young woman replied.  Juanita’s amusement was evident in her voice.

Sarah was generally a happy-go-lucky sort, but that morning was exceptional, that level of exuberance was exceptional, even for her.  The effect of that morning’s interview with Oswald Glendale played across her face; her broad smile, her bright eyes.

The staff shared glances and shook their heads at one another, no one knew what was buoying the spirits of young Miss Price, but that there was something was without question.

And so they guessed; merrily they guessed.  Some figured she that was drunk, others that she had “gotten lucky”, and there were others still who were more prophetic and assumed her to have received some unspecified accolade for a job well done.

She crossed the sales floor of Price with as much of a true skip in her step as she could have possibly mustered in the blue pencil skirt; she even hummed a pretty little tune while she waited for the elevator.

As she left the sales floor, having boarded the elevator and turned to look back at the sales girls who had formed a cluster and were watching her curiously, she smiled broadly and gave a half wave.  If there was more the elevator door cut it short.

“Definitely drunk,” stated one of the more cynical staff members.

Leticia McKinelle-GlendaleLeticia entered Price in a haze.  The sounds around her were muted and the colours were dull.  She entered the building, as she usually did, through the front entrance and made her way across the sales floor and up to the office in which she worked without speaking to, or looking at, a single soul.  She vaguely remembered someone saying something to her, but she couldn’t recall who it was or what they had said.  In fact, if pressed, she could barely recall anything that had happened over the past sixteen hours.

Richard McKinelle was dead; her father had died.  He was never going to defeat the cancer that had ravished his body that much had been known for some time; but the knowing seemed to have done little to prepare his youngest daughter for the reality of it.  She hadn’t been there when he died; he had died alone.  She hadn’t been by his side as she had planned; it had been the reason that she moved back to Emerald Heights: to be with her father in his final months, his final minutes.

One of the housemaids had called her after it happened; Leticia had been at dinner.  She was so shocked and dismayed at the news that she had dropped her cell phone into the soup bowl in front of her.

That was the last coherent memory she had; that was sixteen hours ago.

But she had an appointment that day, at Price, and couldn’t reschedule.  She was meeting with overseas vice-presidents and managers about the architectural rebranding for Price.  The meeting couldn’t wait; it couldn’t be put off.  They had to get back home to their respective countries.

And so, she soldiered on.  She listened vaguely to their demands and responded when necessary.  She nodded and jotted as the meeting carried on. She’d had the wherewithal to tell her assistant about her father.  “I will take care of it,” the assistant had said.

For Leticia the meeting had seemed interminably long and instantly over all at the same time.  She spent all 90 minutes running over and over the choices that lead her away from her father’s house the day before.  And then, when the meeting had wrapped up, she couldn’t remember any of it.

The vice-presidents were gone and so was her assistant.  She was sitting alone in her office, alone at her desk, a pen clasped in her numb fingers, her unfocused eyes reading blank paper.

“Leticia!” Sarah exclaimed as she wheeled into the other woman’s office.  Leticia looked up and smiled; Sarah scrunched her nose in a way that she knew her father found adorable.  “I had the greatest interview this morning!”

“Uh huh,” Leticia replied, her eyes drawing back to the pages that sat in front of her.

“He’s a magazine writer from…” she stopped, “hmmm…  Grand City, I think.  Fashionable Fashions is the name of the magazine, he writes for, though.”  She stopped for a breath, “we just had an interview this morning.  He’s going to be coming by later to take the pictures.”

She repeated in a half-conspiratorial tone: “There are going to be pictures!”

Leticia looked up and nodded appropriately.

Sarah continued, “he’s kind of handsome, too.  He’s tall and swank and he’s got a nice car.”  She giggled, “you know this is the first article that a magazine has wanted to write just about me?  I’m so psyched.”

“That’s great,” Leticia chimed in on cue.

“He’s got your same last name,” Sarah added as if mulling that over for the first time.  “Glendale, I mean, not the other one.”  Sarah was still entirely unaware of Richard McKinelle’s passing.  “It’s Oswald Glendale,” she smiled she spoke the name, “very dashing sounding, no?”

“Sure,” Leticia replied.

Sarah frowned, “okay,” she said finally getting the hint that Leticia was working on something that required her full concentration, “well, I’ll let you get back to work.  I’m going to see Jennifer and pick out a wardrobe.”

She popped up out of the chair and headed for the door.  “I can’t wait to see the article,” she said.  Leticia didn’t reply.

Leticia hadn’t heard a word that she’d said.

Sometime later the phone on Leticia’s desk rang and didn’t stop ringing until she picked it up.  “Hello,” she said speaking for the first time Sarah had left her office hours before.

“Leticia, it’s Mildred,” the voice on the other end of the line stated, “you have to come to the house.”

Perhaps it was the familiar voice of the housemaid that broke through the haze that was now twenty hours old.  “What’s going on?”  Leticia asked.

“It’s…  your step-Mother,” the other woman stated.  “She’s here with a lawyer – she’s taking over the house.”

Leticia slammed down the phone and stood in the same motion. “Do not call her that!”  She shouted long after the phone had been hung up.

As she hooked her purse over her shoulder she mused out loud, “was Sarah in here before?”  She honestly couldn’t remember; which was a shame because it would have saved a lot of people a whole lot of trouble.

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