Where things left off last Tuesday…
(remember to click read more when you get to the bottom)
…Then she heard it. A ringing sound, distant at first but getting louder and louder with every passing minute. She sat up. It was the phone. How long had it been ringing? How long had she been dreaming? She looked at the clock beside the bed. It was nine AM. She felt exhausted, even though she had been sleeping for seven hours.
Joanie slipped quietly into her cubical, the office a hive of activity around her. She was late, she knew that much. But the dream that had kept her tied to her bed had been worth it. She turned on her computer and listened to the soothing whir of the motor. Worn out from her restless sleep and the delightfully disturbing dream, she flopped down in her office chair resting her head in her arms on the desk, while her computer booted-up. How could she possibly concentrate?
The screen came to life, temporarily blinding her as it brightened from gray to vivid blue. Although she was performing her usual morning work routine, her brain and body seemed suspended in another time and place. She’d had fantasies before, but nothing like the one she had that morning. It was other-worldly and she wanted to get back to that place, to relive that moment as quickly as possible.
But why, after all this time had passed, was Peter cropping up in her dreams now? Sure, over the years he had come to mind every now and then, but with time, her thoughts of him had diminished. Certainly nothing like this had occurred in ages. She hadn’t allowed herself to revisit her obsession with Peter, or to indulge in pleasurable fantasies about him since she last saw him during her trip home to Charleston ten years before. That was another lifetime, she thought. However, in her heart of hearts she knew, hers was more than an obsession with Peter, and this morning’s dream was just another reminder of that.
While she typed in her password and pressed Enter, her body continued to feel as if she hovered above the room, like she wasn’t altogether there. The only thing keeping her remotely grounded was the faint smell of coffee.
“Here ya go, Jo Jo. Lips sealed on your being half an hour late! What happened? You’re never late.”
Ruth set a mug of coffee down in front of Joanie and shimmied in her tight red mini-skirt onto the edge of the desk. She was all ears. But before any information passed between the two colleagues, a booming baritone filled the small space.
“Deadlines, deadlines ladies. I trust all is in order and we are right on target today?”
Thomas Carlyle, Editor and Chief of Design International, leaned against the open entryway to Joanie’s cubicle, eying them both. If this wasn’t getting back to reality, Joanie didn’t know what was.
“Joanie, I want – no, I need that Gregory Furlong piece on my desk two hours ago. It must meet deadline if it’s going to make this month’s feature. And where is the artwork for the CK story? That was due yesterday.” He lowered his voice to a whisper.
“By the way, that drawing you’ve been working on, the dress with that glorious lavender chiffon overlay? I want it.”
Thomas Carlyle took a deep breath and glanced suspiciously at Ruth.
“She’s fine Carlyle,” Joanie said, slightly annoyed that he’d question her best friend’s integrity.
“Listen, I know it’s not kosher for you to double-dip like this, but that design is simply fabulous. We must show off your talent my dear. I mean, I don’t want to lose you here in editorial but…” Carlyle’s voice dropped off. “Well, truth be known, I don’t want you stolen out from underneath me either.”
He looked a little embarrassed at admitting this, but continued.
“Well, I just thought…if it’s going to happen anyway, I had better promote you myself.”
Ruth looked over at Joanie bug-eyed, as if to say are you kidding me?
“So, chop-chop, back to work ladies. And Joanie, don’t you worry about a thing. I’ll make the arrangements for your, eh-hem…” Carlyle faked a cough and winked, “sideline gig. Just leave it all to me, sweetie.”
Without time to respond, Carlyle carried on down the aisle to his next unsuspecting employee. Ruth and Joanie giggled.
“Well, at least he’s on your side ‘sweetie’.”
Ruth feigned an accent to match that of Carlyle – British high-brow.
“It could be worse. He could rat you out to head office and you’d be canned. This way there is a chance of your getting discovered after all.”
“Oh Ruth, you’re not serious are you? No one’s going to discover me while I’m here, boxed into this cubicle writing about designs and designers, not actually designing.”
“But Joanie, don’t you see girl? You are designing. Carlyle just asked you for your newest drawings so he can show them off in DI. That’s huge.”
Ruth bent forward and gave Joanie a peck on the cheek.
“You go girl.”
Joanie returned her accolades with a hug, along with an unconvincing grin, as Ruth rounded the corner and headed toward her own desk, behind her own walled-in office space. As soon as Ruth was out of sight, Joanie resumed her daydreaming. Oh, how she missed Peter, his jovial laughter and twinkling eyes, his burly, sexy, six-three build, and his dimpled grin that for all those years Joanie had thought was for her alone. She’d almost forgotten how deeply she had at one time felt about him. With this recent reminder, this delicious dream, she somehow felt renewed hope.
Joanie had grown up with Peter Thompson. They were like brother and sister, although when she became aware of her own sexuality she wished they had never referred to each other that way. Peter was Kevin’s best friend. The two boys had been inseparable since they were in grade school. Being the perfect older brother, protective and inclusive, Kevin had accepted his little sister Joanie, once she grew up, as part of their team, making them a trio. That is, until Peter and Kevin went off to college.
All of that really was now a dream. Any hopes she’d had of her life-long fantasies being fulfilled had long since passed. She had accepted the fact that they were her fantasies, not Peters. What she, or anybody else for that matter wondered was, why Clarice?
But that was past-tense. So much had happened since that angst-ridden time in her life. In the ten years that had lapsed, Joanie had not forgotten that night at Joe’s Diner, nor had she fully forgiven her brother Kevin for stooping so low, and Peter for being such a coward. But she had moved on. After graduating cum laude in Biochemistry from NYU, she had decided to change direction and follow her true passion. She applied to the Art Institute of New York in fashion design, and was accepted with a full scholarship. Part way through the design program she landed an internship at New York’s esteemed fashion magazine Design International. At the time it was a boon, but now, four years later, what was once an elite position for anyone fresh out of University had become as rote and mundane as working an assembly line. She was bored. The only way Joanie knew how to get out of, what was for her a dead-end job, was to get back to her design roots and start creating fashions of her own again. She was good, she knew she was, and she wanted to create a clothing line that would put her in with New York’s fashion leaders. Joanie knew the industry like the back of her hand. Although it would be a grueling life with an overloaded work schedule involving lots of travel and late nights, to see her own clothes – her own line – parade down the world’s most prestigious runways in Milan, Paris and London would be living the dream.
A sudden ping brought her back to the reality of her present job and the impending deadlines, when a message popped up in her IM box. Meet for lunch at Bimini’s, 1 pm. JR. Joanie stared at the computer screen, then adjusted her headset and pressed four on the telephone keypad.
“Ruthy, do you know anyone by the name of JR?”
“Well, I just got an instant message from a JR inviting me to meet for lunch at 1 pm, at Bimini’s of all places.”
“Whoa, shi-shi. So, why don’t you just write the guy back and ask who he is?”
“Hadn’t thought of that, but how do you know he’s a he?”
“Because if he were a she, she would have given you her name or told you who she was, that’s how. C’mon now girl, send a message.”
Joanie sat for a minute.
“Okay, I’ll call you right back.”
She mulled the idea over while doodling on the Emery notepad on the desk in front of her. She took a sip of coffee, then typed: Possibly, but first you must tell me who you are, and pressed Send. Not more than a minute later her phone rang. It made her heart jump into her throat, but she composed herself.
“Joanie Scott here.”
“Well hello Joanie Scott, Jake Roberts here.”
There was a pause while they both waited for the other one to speak.
“Hello Jake. Uh…am I supposed to know you?”
A husky, good-natured laugh came through the receiver.
“No you’re not, but it would be to your advantage to know me. I’m heading up a team of designers to showcase at this year’s Annual Fashion Award Ceremonies and Gala. We’re looking for fresh new talent with an edge. Your name came up. Interested?”
Joanie was stunned. Interested? She couldn’t be more.
“Absolutely, Jake. What time did you say again, 1 o’clock?”
Stay tuned as Just Friends continues next Tuesday, March 29. To read the full story to date, click the above tab Just Friends. See you Tuesday!