Become a Fan
By Angela Rhodes
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Rated "G" by the Author.
Is Sarah Eberly doomed to celebrate her birthday alone in a new city? Or will a kind-hearted co-worker come to her rescue in glittering birthday armor?
All eyes fell on Sarah Eberly as she walked into the boardroom and closed the door. Her heart was pounding and her knees felt weak. She had spent weeks working day and night on a detailed market analysis for BLISS, the most prestigious public relations firm on the east coast. Now the day had come to present her findings.
Sarah knew how much was riding on this presentation. BLISS was expanding into the Midwest, and she had been hired to do what she did best—get a corner on the market and seal the deal. If only her brother hadn’t called just moments before the meeting to say he’d been sent out of town on business. He was going to have to cancel his weekend visit. That meant Sarah would be spending her birthday alone.
Taking a deep breath to calm herself and squaring her shoulders, she turned to face the members of the board. She only hoped the splash of cold water and touch of extra make-up had hidden the obvious fact that she had been crying.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” she said in her most confident voice as she scanned the room for an available seat—and a friendly face.
Her eyes met David Alba’s. He offered her a warm smile and nodded toward the empty chair next to him. David was the head of the Research department at BLISS. He had been very helpful to Sarah during her first weeks at a new job—and in a new city. She quickly learned she could count on him for anything from running reports to bringing her a sandwich when she worked through lunch. (And most days, she did.)
Sarah returned the smile and headed his way.
As she sat down, she placed her briefcase on the table and unclasped it to retrieve a folder of presentation notes. When she opened the folder, a hand appeared then retreated, leaving a square yellow Post-It note behind.
“You okay?” the note read.
It was penned in David’s scratchy handwriting. She glanced at him and saw concern in his eyes.
“Long morning,” she scribbled, and returned the note.
Then Sarah stood to begin her presentation.
After the meeting, David appeared at her desk.
“I think it went well,” he told her, leaning casually in her cubicle doorway with his arms crossed. “You really impressed them.”
“I hope so,” she said, and managed a distracted smile. She was still thinking about the upcoming weekend. This would be the first birthday she ever spent alone, and she wasn’t looking forward to it.
“Want to talk about it?” David asked.
He looked genuinely interested, but Sarah held back. After spending the last few weeks obsessing over numbers and figures, she wasn’t sure she was ready for a conversation about something as uncalculated as feelings.
“This project has been such a challenge,” she told him after a moment. “I spend over half the hours of the day working, only to dream about it at night.”
“Anything I can do?”
Sarah couldn’t help but smile at his kindness. Then she said,
“You’ve already done too much for me. I couldn’t ask for more.”
Something in David’s expression told her this was not an issue they agreed on, but he didn’t press her any further.
Later that day, the phone in David’s office rang. He glanced at the caller ID screen to see that it was Marty Clark, the assistant manager of the Research department and a good friend.
“Mr. Clark?” he asked when he picked up the phone. He looked across the hall and Marty waved.
“I was just thinking about your predicament,” Marty told him.
“You’re crazy about the new market analyst, but you don’t have the guts to ask her out.”
“She’s overworked, Marty. She practically lives in the office. The last thing she needs right now is some guy in Research bugging her for a date.”
“My sources inform me she would say ‘yes.’”
“They also inform me that her birthday is on Saturday, and she doesn’t have anyone in the city to celebrate with.”
“Is that right?”
Marty’s “sources” were right. When David approached her on Friday and asked her to have dinner with him the following evening, Sarah said “yes.”
“Where would you like to go?” David asked when he picked her up.
“Anywhere,” Sarah told him. She looked radiant in a turtleneck sweater with her hair pinned back on the sides. Then she added, “As long as the cuisine doesn’t come from a box.”
“There’s a great Italian restaurant on Front Street. They make everything from scratch—I swear.”
Throughout dinner, they talked about their families and the places where they grew up. Sarah and David both came from large families in small towns. It turned out they both felt like small fish in the very big sea that was New York City. Sarah mentioned her birthday only to tell David of her brother’s last minute change of plans, and then nothing more was said on the subject.
On the drive back to her apartment at the end of the evening, Sarah noticed that David was taking a route that was unfamiliar to her. When she questioned this, he said,
“We have to stop by my place for a minute. I have something for you.”
“What is it?” she asked with a mix of suspicion and intrigue.
David turned and offered her a mysterious wink.
The apartment was dark when he unlocked the door, but as soon as they walked inside lights flashed on and co-workers from the Research and Marketing departments yelled “Surprise!”
The apartment sparkled with old-fashioned birthday magic. Streamers reached from wall to wall, separated by shiny balloons that glittered in the low light. Confetti dangled from the hair of the guests, who donned colorful hats and enormous smiles. In the center of the room, a birthday cake with bright pink icing cheerfully exclaimed “Happy Birthday! Welcome to BLISS!”
David turned to her and smiled.
“Surprised?” he asked.
“Amazed,” she told him. “I can’t believe you did this! It’s just what I needed.”
“Happy birthday, Sarah.”
When she looked up at him, he saw tears in her eyes for a second time. But this time, they were tears of happiness.
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