The party at Jackie D’s had only begun at half past six, but by a quarter to eight it was already winding down. That was pretty much the norm for after hour’s parties, especially when thrown by a firm that was only willing to foot the bill for the first two rounds. Once people had to reach into their own pockets, most employees usually decided it was time to call it a night.
Overall, as such functions went, Rebecca Singleton felt that it hadn’t been a bad party, short as it had been, just overly predictable. That on this occasion she’d been the guest of honor really hadn’t made it seem any different. Bill Collins still had too much to drink, until he finally had to be practically poured into a cab for the trip home. Natalie Stuart was her usual flirtatious self, going so far as to disappear for a while into a back room with a co-worker half her age. Lastly, but not least, Tom Wallace made it a point to ask anyone even closely resembling the opposite sex to dance, despite not having the least bit of skill in that area.
“Last call,” Stephanie London said as she came up behind Rebecca and handed her an open bottle of beer, “or at least the last one the company’s paying for.”
Rebecca thanked the twenty-three year old, taking a short drink from the bottle just to be gracious. The twenty-nine year old brunette wasn’t that much of a drinker to begin with, and this bottle would be her third, one more than she usually managed over the course of a night, much less at an abbreviated party such as this.
Originally, Rebecca hadn’t even planned to have a first drink, thinking that since the party was for her, she might want to make sure she remembered all of it. That notion was soon discarded once she realized that little about it was turning out to be memorable at all. In fact, as she took a second drink from the bottle Stephanie had given her, Rebecca wondered how many of the people who had shown up at Jackie D’s had actually done so to wish her luck, and how many had just come for the free booze. Despite her years with the firm, Rebecca had made few friends there, other than the kind you just knew in the office, Stephanie being one of the few exceptions. At the slow rate that the end of the bar where the party was being held was emptying out, it was pretty obvious that most of the attendees had belonged to the latter free-booze category.
Six weeks before, Rebecca had been offered a chance to transfer to the Washington D.C. office of Pennyworth and Wayne, with a bump in both title and salary. The only catch was that the offer, the result of the unexpected passing of her predecessor in the position, had been made on a Friday and she would have to be there the following Monday. It was the kind of promotion she hadn’t really expected to be considered for at the New York office for at least a year.
It hadn’t taken a lot of consideration before she said yes, much to the dismay of her boyfriend, Simon Kirby. Cute, funny and financially secure, she had strong feelings for the thirty-three year old architect she had met at her sister’s wedding some three years before. Yet, despite the fact that she was sharing both his life and his bed, there still wasn’t a ring on her finger. A fact that she clearly pointed out to him when the subject of her transfer came up. If he expected her to pass on this opportunity, that was going to be the price. It turned out to be one Simon was unwilling to pay.
Therefore, off to Washington she had gone, quickly immersing herself in a routine that was both familiar and subtlety different. As weeks passed, she found she enjoyed the change of venue, giving her, as it were, a chance to start her life over.
Rebecca had come back up to Manhattan a few days ago to wrap up some unfinished business, stopping by the office just to say hello. Somehow, and she still wasn’t sure where exactly the suggestion had come from, it was decided that she had left so abruptly that there hadn’t been time to give her a proper sendoff. Then again, if someone could convince the company to pick up the tab, any occasion was a reason to celebrate.
“So are you settled in down in D.C. yet?” Stephanie asked after taking a drink from her own bottle. She was actually at least one ahead of Rebecca, but seemed to be able to hold it better.
“Well, I really haven’t had the time to look for my own place,” Rebecca replied, “but I’ve been sharing a really nice apartment in Alexandria.”
“Sharing?” Stephanie asked curiously.
“Well, there were two other people already living there,” Rebecca explained, “but I have my own room and it’s only a two block walk to the Metro station. The trip on the Orange Line into the city is actually easier than the one I used to make on the F train from Coney Island.”
“Two roommates huh? Well I can identify with that,” Stephanie grinned. It was common knowledge that she shared a house in Flushing with girlfriends from college. “How did you wind up there, an agency or someone you knew?”
“The second really, well, sort of,” Rebecca replied, seemingly having trouble finding the exact words. “It’s the same apartment my brother used to share when he was going to Georgetown. His roommates kept it after graduation, since they were staying in the D.C. area.”
“Wait a second,” Stephanie said, her eyes lighting up. “Let me get this straight. You’re telling me that you share an apartment with two guys who went to school with your brother.”
“I’ve met your brother,” Stephanie interrupted. “He’s what, two, maybe three years older than me.”
“Yes, he is, but it’s not like it sounds.”
“Rebecca, I’m shocked, truly shocked,” Stephanie exclaimed in mock horror. “I didn’t think you had it in you.”
Rebecca smiled; she knew she was being teased.
“Down girl,” Rebecca interjected. “Before you go off imagining wild three-ways and other entertainments, I want to point out that it’s only a two bedroom apartment?”
“Even better,” Stephanie cut in, “You get to take turns. A girl your age needs to conserve her strength,” she added, the smile on her face growing larger.
“Okay, you had your laugh, now let me finish,” Rebecca said after a short pause. “Like I said, it’s only a two bedroom apartment, one at each end. I have mine and they both share the other, the one with the double bed.”
“Oh,” Stephanie noted as understanding set in.
Silence filled the space between them for a few moments as they both took another drink.
“And your brother, Jimmy, was roommates with these guys?”
“Yes, for two years.”
“Did he and they?” Stephanie asked letting the obvious question tail off. “Not that there would’ve been anything wrong with that. I’m just curious.”
Rebecca laughed at how Stephanie was always curious about everyone else’s sex life. Not that the question wasn’t one she herself had wanted to ask back when Jimmy had first told her he was going to be rooming with Pete Tate, whom he’d known from high school, and his boyfriend.
“Well, I asked Jimmy about that once,” Rebecca replied, “and he said no.”
“Did you believe him?” Stephanie further asked, her puritan curiosity aroused.
“Well, if he wasn’t telling the truth,” the older woman answered, “it really wasn’t any of my business, was it?”
“Are the guys at least good looking?”
They both laughed.
“And you don’t find it kind of awkward living with them?” Stephanie asked further. “Not that they’re gay, or even guys, but that they’re a couple. Isn’t it hard, privacy wise?”
“Not really,” Rebecca said as she took another sip of beer, “I’m not there all that much and, like I said, their bedroom is on the other side of the apartment.”
What Rebecca didn’t mention was the time that she’d come home unexpectedly in the middle of the afternoon and walked in on Pete and Doug on the living room couch, doing something she’d never even seen pictures of. Educational as it had been, she’d learned to call ahead, even if it was supposedly to check if they needed anything from the corner grocery.
“It looks like the party has left without us,” Stephanie said, changing the subject as she looked around them.
Rebecca turned and looked as well, failing to find a familiar face. She dimly remembered a few people coming up to say goodnight and good luck, but that couldn’t have accounted for more than five or six of the two dozen people who had been there at the beginning.
“I guess so,” Rebecca said, feeling a little disappointed, “but at least I got a chance to say goodbye to you a second time.”
“Do you have a hot date to run off to?” Stephanie asked out of the blue.
“No, of course not,” Rebecca answered.
“Then why are you acting like the night’s already over?” the younger girl said. “We’ve still got you and me, what more do we need?”
“I’m sorry,” Rebecca replied, “I guess I somehow thought, and I don’t know why, this would’ve been something more. At least more than the typical Friday night after work. I mean, when you think about it, this is probably my last night in New York and?oh hell, I guess I’m just being silly.”
“No you’re not,” Stephanie answered, flashing a broad smile. “You wanted a memorable night and this was hardly it. You deserved more than a bunch of freeloaders who probably have already forgotten your name, that is, if they ever knew it in the first place.”
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