We were the B-Team and we knew it, Madison, Kitty, and I. Other sales teams posted bigger numbers, but we had a solid record. We’d all been with the firm since its inception five years ago. So when Jeff Pint, the VP of Marketing, tapped us to go to Denver for the Western States EMT, Paramedic, and ER Nursing Association Conference at the Colorado Conference Center, we thought it was our big break.
And for the first two days of the three-day convention we were golden. We demonstrated a lot of product and sold a lot of content. Our publishing firm, Kilbride & Parks, Ltd., was the fastest growing North American provider of e-books, interactive software, and tablet content for emergency medicine. We attracted the kind of attention that typical textbook and medical manual publishers didn’t usually get. We gave away flash drives in sexy colors. Every day we drew a business card from a bucket in our booth and the winner got a new iWatch. But on the second evening, as we were packed up our booth for the night our iPhones buzzed in unison. I thought it might be congratulations for all our sales. Until I read the message.
“Kilbride & Parks has been bought out by Elsevier,” I told my coworkers.
“They have their own sales and marketing departments,” Madison moaned, looking up from the same message on her phone. “George, our services are no longer needed.”
“No wonder the guys at the Elsevier booth couldn’t look us in the eye today,” I told my colleagues. “They must have known this was happening.”
“We’re supposed to clean out or desks as soon as we get back,” Kitty said, putting her phone away. “The severance package is available online.”
“So what are we going to do now?” I asked, looking at our booth and the product we had left. “There’s another day left of the conference. Our flight isn’t until tomorrow night.”
“I suppose we come back tomorrow,” Madison suggested, “and just do our job.”
“No!” Kitty said in a voice that got our attention. “Read the message again. We don’t have a job any more. We’re done.”
The message was pretty clear. We were done. Our new bosses were afraid of the damage we might do talking to clients tomorrow. “You can’t blame them,” I told my friends.
“So, George,” Madison sighed, “what do you suggest? Still want to go to the Palace?”
We’d planned on going out for a late night supper at the Palace Arms to celebrate our success. The Palace Arms was an old school, five-star restaurant with top-notch service and eight-course meals. We were each going to contribute our per diem meal allowance and then make up the difference. If we had any spending money left, we were going to Pints Pub for single malt scotch. Now we had nothing to celebrate.
“I suggest we move the stuff over to its new owners,” I told them, motioning to the Elsevier booth was two spots down from us. “No sense in burning bridges.”
“Okay, but then we go back to the hotel and order everything on the room service menu and eat and drink ourselves stupid.” That was a surprising statement coming from Madison. She was a little older than me, mid-thirties. She was divorced, but still naïve. Her father was a Baptist preacher. She’d lost thirty pounds on her latest diet, using willpower and exercise. I’d never seen her drink alcohol.
“That’s the spirit,” Kitty told her. “We can sleep in tomorrow. Order room service omelets and mojitos for breakfast. Check out at the last minute, before we go to the airport for our flight.”
“What about the single malt tasting? Could we at least go to Pints?” I whined.
“Do your know how much that would cost? With no job, I have to watch my pennies,” Madison argued.
“We still get the single malt. Enough to swim in if we want. And it won’t cost us a penny,” Kitty told us.
“And how will that happen?” I asked.
“There’s a great liquor store just down from the hotel. We’ll pop in there.” Kitty pulled out the company credit card we’d been using for expenses. “I consider it part of the severance package.”
“We can’t do that,” Madison told her.
“What are they going to do, fire us?” she asked.
We lugged our inventory down to the Elsevier booth and took a quiet cab ride to the liquor store Kitty had seen. Madison and Kitty each picked a wine, based on the recommendations of a helpful clerk: an Araujo Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Altrgracia 2013 ($146) and a Close Des Papes Blanc 2009 ($129) to go with the food. I picked the bottle of the single malt scotch, a 30-year-old Glenfiddich on sale for just under $400.
“I can’t believe that Sheila in travel didn’t cancel the card when they canned us,” I told my friends as we carried our booty back to the hotel.
“I texted Sheila. She got canned, too,” Kitty said, “and doesn’t give a shit what we charge on the card.”
I carried the liquor through the doorway of their room and set it on the table. Kitty gave me a kiss on the cheek to thank me. “Give us an hour to freshen up,” she said. “Dress for dinner. Then come back. We’ll have everything ready.”
“This is our last evening together,” Madison sighed.
“Then let’s make it a memorable one,” Kitty said in a tone that aroused me. What did she mean by that?
When I returned to the room an hour later, Madison opened the door. “You look amazing!” I told her. She was attractive, even before she lost the weight, but diet and exercise had firmed her curves, flattened her stomach, and lifted her breasts. She wore black high heels, silver nylons, a full black skirt that ended an inch above her knees, a sliver shell, and a black sweater jacket. The shell was scooped to reveal her cleavage. Around her neck was a rope of silver beads. “Very sexy.”
“Sexy?” she asked. I nodded while she blushed. “No one’s ever called me sexy.” Madison and Kitty had gone shopping the night before without me. Now I knew why. I’d always thought that Madison had designs on me. She motioned me in. “You’re all dressed up, too,” she told me as I walked into the room. I was wearing the only suit I had with me. They’d seen it a hundred times before. She added, “Nice slacks.”
“Slacks, hell,” Kitty said. “Nice butt.”
When I saw Kitty, instant erection. She, too, had black heels, but hers were stilettos. Her nylons were dark and seamed. Her tight black skirt hugged her hips and barely covered the tops of her nylons. A flimsy shawl draped over her showers and a silver chain wrapped around her waist. Her blouse was delicate, almost transparent, revealing a cream colored camisole underneath. I could see the outlines of her nipples. “Wow.” That was all I could think to say. I watched Madison crumble. I’d just told both women who was the sexiest one in the room.
For various reasons, none of us was dating anyone at the moment. Definitely not each other. It was hard not to be attracted to Kitty or Madison, but we worked together every day. We’d become friends, like brother and sisters. But now, officially, we were no longer partners. And neither woman dressed like my sister.
I caught myself staring. I blinked, and then turned my attention to a cart by the window with the room service food. Madison and Kitty took turns striking a pose, then lifting the lid off a dish. “Lobster roll served on a fresh-baked brioche bun with bacon dressing,” Madison announced proudly.
They’d already started on the wine, two empty glasses on either side of the table, and Kitty was holding a third. “An antipasto assortment with dried fruit, four artisan cheeses, almonds, olives, La Quercia prosciutto, fig jam, and grilled bread,” she said, removing the cover with a flourish.
“Toll House chocolate chunk cookies.”
“Mini-Italian sausage lasagnas, with a side of marinara sauce.”
“Jumbo shrimp cocktails.”
“A fresh fruit plate with raspberry sorbet. I’m afraid it’s already starting to melt.”
“Buffalo wings, BBQ wings, and Hawaiian wings.”
“A dessert sampler with cream puffs and cupcakes.”
“We ordered three glasses of wine, too,” Madison explained, “so we could get three glasses. They also brought up a corkscrew, which we have to pay for if we don’t return it.” She wobbled a little, even though she’d only had one glass. “I think I need to eat something.”
I opened the white wine, the Close Des Papes Blanc. We raised our glasses and clinked. “Let the evening commence,” Kitty purred.
Madison filled her tiny plate with a lobster roll and an assortment of wings, two pieces of cheese, and some olives. “I’ll pay for this on the scale tomorrow.”
Kitty inhaled the fragrance of the wine, gently swirling the honey colored liquid under her nose. She sipped again. “Floral. Fruity.”
I caught her eye and motioned conspiratorially toward Madison. “And 13% alcohol.”
I sat down on the beds facing the two women as we sipped our wine, and emptied our plates, going back for seconds. We talked about work: our prospects for a new job, the surprisingly generous severance package, the messages from others in the firm also terminated. Our eating slowed.
When I opened the second bottle of wine, the Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Altrgracia, no one thought anything of the price. None of us had ever paid more than $20 for a bottle of wine. We got giddy. We relaxed. We were friends, enjoying an evening together.
“I’m stuffed,” Kitty said, finally setting her plate on the nightstand.
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