The day, supposedly a special day, but hardly that for the grim mood that Wendy Barton was in, began uncharacteristically. After her early shower, and her semi-ritual of using body cream to help her feel fresh, she was passing through her bedroom and noticed the mirror. It was full length and she and the mirror were normally 'friends'. She used it to make sure that she was turned out in exactly the manner that she always wanted but today it was as though the mirror was leering, almost sniggering at her.
She shook her head and told herself to 'get a grip' and that 'a mere birthday should never have this kind of effect on a person'. Wendy knew immediately that the words fell on pretty deaf ears in her case. She stepped up to the mirror to challenge it and looked at herself. There were things that impressed her mind right away: her body still glistened just a bit from the cream that she'd used on it, and also, she noticed how much she looked like her sainted mother, gone these many years.
Her reverie with the mirror didn't end there. She allowed herself a full course of fault finding and wrinkle searching. She thought that her rather full breasts, 38c, didn't really sag very much at all. That was encouraging. She also noticed, however, that there was some extra weight around the hips. She still liked the swell of her butt and didn't see it falling very much at all. Her legs were still proportional, slender and fine, no ugly lines, and she thought that the contrast between her pale skin -- Wendy was not a random tanner by any means -- and the dark curl of her pubic hair was maybe 'alluring'. She'd put the 'maybe' in there on purpose, for Wendy didn't feel alluring, all of the evidence to the contrary.
She knew what she knew. Her grandma had died of a stroke at the age of 49. Yes, she was always what was considered 'frail' but there it was. Her own Momma had died when Wendy was a mere 30 at the age of 50. Of course, it was an auto accident, which took both her Mom and Dad but it was still at this cursed age! The year 50 sat on her that day like a grinning kind of harpy bird, and seemed to mock her every attempt, in front of that damn mirror, to find herself still fair looking and attractive.
And 'yes', the 'attractive' issue was only for her. Wendy wasn't a romantic woman; at least that's what she told herself, and she meant it. She had had some beaus, they were called in those days, when she was younger but discovered early enough that those beaus were buzzing around her because of her Daddy's money, which she stood to inherit eventually. It stunned her and she purposefully closed that 'romantic' door then and there. She turned her attention, and her talents to being her Dad's right hand gal in the business, and had grown into that kind of trust, which he placed in her.
So, there it was. She was 50 years old today; she was successful; even the sniggering mirror told her that she was still attractive, her Momma's girl that way; she was well off; she liked her job and chosen life style but she was, damn it 50 years old that day! That was the beginning and the end of it right there.
She shook her head and took the duvet from the bed and in a gesture of disgust threw it over the mirror, as though to shut up the damn thing's bad attitude. She strode to her walk in and began to assemble her clothes for the day.
There were times, when Wendy would do a further assessment in front of that mirror, when she was dressed in her panties but today she wouldn't give the damn thing the satisfaction of even looking. She dressed without further dealings with the thing.
Her mood surrounded her at the office. Her 'gal Friday', May, recognized it.
"Big day blues?" she said softly.
"Yes, honey," Wendy said, "And I apologize in advance for being snappish with you; it's only me, and not anything else. But I want to tell you and let you make it plain around here, the significance of this day is off the table! It's a Friday and that's all that it is. No greetings, no wishes, no cards, no little gifts or anything of the sort. I realize that it's almost like a personal temper tantrum but it is mine today and I want it respected."
May nodded her head. She would, in fact, she decided, get that word around the place: to tread lightly with the boss who was in a very bad humor today and do not, do not mention her birthday.
May and Wendy were close and had talked as the 'big day' approached, and May knew about Wendy's skittishness about turning 50 that day, and what she thought about the age, based on her family history especially. It made her shake her head because she thought that, even at her present age, even at 50, Wendy Barton was a stunner. A mature woman, enjoying the blossoming and blooming of that kind of age, Wendy Barton was overlooked but she was a beauty, for anyone with a head on straight enough to see beauty for what it was: the glory of such middle aged women. But those were private thoughts. Today it would be business, only business.
"Here are the production reports for this month and the manifests for shipments," May said. "They look good, Boss."
"Good," Wendy said, "Maybe that'll cheer me up!"
She shook her head ruefully and May went around the desk and kissed Wendy on the head, before simply leaving and going back to work.
"Thank you, honey," Wendy said to May, as she left the office to go to her own.
As soon as she got back to her own office, May began calling the department heads to tell them to tread lightly about the birthday, which just about everyone knew about.
AN UNWANTED WISH AND AN APOLOGY:
Of course, it was inevitable! Someone would find a dupe and pass on the wrong information. And, yes, it happened. The poor 'dupe' in this case was the new guy in accounting, Ryan Whalen, whose department supervisor told him that today was the big boss' birthday and it would be nice if Ryan, new and all, could get on the right foot with the boss by going and wishing her a happy birthday.
Ryan thought that was a good idea. He was really pleased to have been hired, and knew that the job had been competitive. He took his coffee break at 10 AM that morning and told Les, the super in accounting, that he was going to deliver the wish to the boss.
May announced to Wendy that Ryan Whalen from accounting was there to see her.
"Send him in," she said.
He only went inside her office door and said: "Ms Barton, I wanted to thank you again for hiring me; I appreciate the opportunity you've given me and I want to wish you a happy birthday."
May, standing now at her desk behind Ryan winced. She realized immediately that Ryan was the victim of a prank. She saw that Ryan was turning to go and that Wendy was smiling and nodding at him.
Ryan seemed to be confused by Wendy's reaction, or lack of it and turned, when May got to him, to go.
"It's okay," May said.
Then, before he left the office, she softly explained to him what he'd just done and how he'd been set up.
"I'll kill him!" he said.
May quickly reflected that she wouldn't want to be in Les' shoes and have Ryan mad at her. Ryan Whalen was 35 and in great shape. He attended a gym regularly and worked with weights and running to keep himself fit. Less Gorman was short, fat and a smoker!
"Ryan," May said, "Just let this go! It's their 'right of passage' thing. Take it in good stride."
"Well, it makes me feel terrible about having done it; ruined that woman's day!" he said.
"It's okay," May said, "I'll talk to her."
But Ryan was morose about his unwitting gaffe. When the day ended, and Les actually did apologize for setting him up, he went for his normal dinner at his brother's restaurant, 'Rene's'. It was a popular local eatery that specialized in continental cuisine.
(Rene wasn't French but had gone to continental cooking schools and was considered a first rate chef by his many, many fans and clientele.)
"Hey, bro," Rene said, greeting Ryan with a hug. "You look grim!"
"Yeah," Ryan answered, "Made an ass of myself at work."
"Tell," Rene said.
Ryan explained the setup for him to wish the boss a 'happy birthday' and the explanation from May about how morose Wendy was about turning 50 that day.
"Boss?" Rene said, "You mean Wendy Barton?"
"Yes," Ryan said grimly.
"She's here tonight," Rene said, "She comes in now and again; she's over there."
"Crap!" Ryan said, "This will make her even angrier, when she sees me."
"Nonsense," Rene scoffed. "You go right over there and tell her that you were set up and apologize. It'll be fine!"
Ryan just stared at his older brother, who normally never steered him wrong, for a few seconds and said: "If this doesn't work, if this backfires, I'm going to buy you out and fire your ass!"
Rene was grinning widely by the time that Ryan got to the end of what he was saying.
"Go on, don't be afraid!" Rene said, so Ryan went.
Wendy looked up with total surprise on her face, when Ryan got to her table. She had a glass of wine from a bottle of German white but didn't seem to be drinking it.
"Ryan!" she said, and then recovering, went on in a very cold voice: "What are you doing here?"
Ryan was displeased immediately by her tone but glanced at his older brother who was looking encouragingly at him and kind of gulped and held up a hand.
"No, Ms Barton," he began, "I am not stalking you!" his own voice now matching her own frostiness. He realized that he wasn't going to play this rudeness game with her any more.
.... There is more of this story ...