There are some days I’d love to bottle up and save: the day I graduated summa cum laude, the days I married and divorced my ex, and if everything worked out, today.
My orange juice was perfect: fresh squeezed with a twist of lime. A basket of warm sweet-potato muffins from Momma Pearl's scented the air with home-made goodness. A bouquet of yellow roses lay on the seat beside me. Despite asking him not to, my boyfriend Terrence had thought of everything down to the new red silk power suit I sported.
“Ante victoriam ne canan triumphum: don’t sing triumphs before the victory,” I’d said.
Terrence didn’t share my fondness for Latin. “Victory is yours,” he’d countered, and so he’d sent all this stuff plus a limo to ferry me to work.
“All set, Ms. MacBride?” the driver asked.
“Carry on, Jeeves.” His name tag said Jerome. That’s no name for a limo driver. Course, some folks might say Kadence MacBride was no name for a thirty-something African-American woman.
Stretch limos didn’t grace my neighborhood that often, especially not on a Friday morning. More than a few curtains rustled as we passed. There’d be more than curtains rustling if I showed up to work in this thing.
“So, Jeeves, I need you to let me out about two blocks from my building. I’ll walk the rest of the way.”
Jeeves shook his head. “I’m to deliver you to the front door. Mr. Chandler’s instructions were very specific.”
“Mr. Chandler will never know. You do want me to give him a good report, don’t you?”
Raising two fingers to his chauffeur’s cap, Jeeves saluted. “As you wish.”
I leaned back and sipped my juice. Luther Vandross crooned, “So Amazing,” over speakers that made it sound like he was in the limo with me. No matter what happened today, next Saturday morning I'd be on the first Caribbean-bound flight to meet Terrence for five whole weeks, the most vacation I’d ever taken at one time. As much vacation as I had banked I could have taken off five months.
No phone. No television. The brush of tropical breezes against our skin. The sound of waves crashing on the shore. The smell of—what was that smell? I knocked on the partition separating us.
Jeeves slid it open. “Don’t panic.”
My decision to panic or not rested solely on his answer to my next question. “What’s burning?”
“The engine.” He exited the highway and parked. Well, he got within shouting distance of the curb before the limo died.
Now seemed the perfect time to panic. Thornwood’s warehouse district, with its umpteen blocks of abandoned buildings and weed-choked fields, wasn’t a limo part of town.
“I’ve called for a tow truck and another car,” he said.
“Did you order an armed guard too?”
“I’ve locked the doors.”
Which wouldn’t do squat against anybody who wanted them unlocked. Still, the street was deserted, and I hadn’t read about anything happening out here for at least a week.
Puffs of smoke whiffed from the vents. The puffs morphed into clouds and spewed into the cabin.
Jeeves popped the locks. “Let me get your door.”
I got my own door and sprinted onto the pock-marked sidewalk. Made pretty good time. Beat Jeeves, and he didn’t have to grab a purse and briefcase or navigate a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice with a twist of lime. I could have done a better job on that last point. Said juice dripped off my suit. I flicked a lime slice from my skirt. I had spare outfits at work. I didn’t have spare time. “How much longer?”
“The limo should arrive soon.”
The tow truck arrived sooner, so I commandeered it. Jeeves spread newspaper over the cracked seat. “You won’t tell Mr. Chandler will you?”
“It’ll be our secret.” I could honestly tell Terrence that I’d taken the limo to work and loved it. And for the ten minutes I was actually in the limo, I had. He didn’t need to know it broke down.
The truck made good time. Since I wasn’t in the limo anymore, I had the driver drop me at the front door. I wanted to tell Terrence I’d made a grand entrance, so I peeled the newspaper from my butt, emerged as a queen would from her carriage, and glided in the building.
If everything worked out, I’d get my own personal parking space, private entrance, and use of the executive elevator.
If everything worked out, I’d burst through the glass ceiling with my size ten pumps and become the first African-American VP at Trans Global Communications.
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