Authors: Cara Nelson
Men of the Capital Book 2
By Cara Nelson
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“I cannot believe you convinced that man to give you a car.” Shannon said incredulously.
“Audacity is everything.”
Annelise said crisply, accepting the keys to the car her boss had leased for her use. “I explained in my letter that planning the engagement party would demand a lot of crosstown travel, and frankly, I am sick of the bus. So I asked for a car. It’s only leased,” she said with a frown.
Still, it was a glossy onyx
black; showroom-new, and the interior had heated leather seats. Annelise had never had heated leather seats before. She’d probably want to live in it. And if she didn’t find a new apartment soon, she might have to.
“I’ve worked here for years
, and he never even rented me a car,” Shannon remarked ruefully.
“Did you ever ask?”
“No,” Shannon admitted. “I assume he would have fired me. How you get away with everything, I wish I knew.”
, I’m getting away with couch surfing at Edna’s.”
, the cashier in the cafeteria?”
“Yeah. I already crashed with my other friends in town. I’m down to bunking on the cafeteria lady’s fold
-out, and that son-of-a-bitch has a spring that gouges me right in the spine. I’m trying to sleep, and it feels like my granny’s poking me in the back to make me stand up straight…like I’m eleven years old again. But my limit’s a week. I won’t overstay that. If I don’t come up with a security deposit, you may find me sleeping in Cates’ office.”
He sleeps in there sometimes. Watch out.”
“Nah, he sleeps at Hannah’s
, unless he wants to be with his precious cello.”
“He plays the cello?”
Shannon asked incredulously.
“How long have you worked here? I been here five months and I ordered his new bo
w,” Annelise teased her, twisting a lock of curly black hair around her finger.
“So are we taking that car out for lunch?” Shannon hinted.
“Ain’t nobody eating in that car. I’m keeping it in perfect condition, preserve that new leather smell,” Annelise said. “We’ll have to go sit-down. Go someplace with a menu and tables. No drive thru in the new ride.” Shannon nodded in agreement. Shannon was in her first trimester and hoped for guacamole.
Once they were in the car, admiring the gauges and the wood on the dashboard,
Annelise told Shannon all about her ex. They had broken up weeks ago, but Shannon had been afraid to ask because Annelise got so angry at the mere mention of it.
“I was with Roger from the time I was seventeen years, used to pick me up in his El Camino and drive me to school so I didn’t have to ride
that bus. It was a rough bus, let me tell you. He was in vocational school then, learned to be a diesel mechanic. I like a man with shoulders, a man that does real work.” She sighed.
Three years ago Christmas, he gave me a ring. We made it official, moved to the city together and got a place of our own. Three years may seem like a long time, but I got time, not rushing. So it didn’t seem that bad when he wanted to wait to plan a wedding. He got a job, I found this one after my last place…didn’t work out.” She smiled to herself.
“Fired?” Shannon asked nonchalantly, munching
on crackers from her purse as they made their way to a restaurant.
“Yeah. I told it like it was. Sometimes my mouth gets me in trouble, believe it or not
,” Annelise confirmed. Shannon nodded, suppressing a knowing titter.
“Roger said we ought to save for a bigger place so we could have kids. No matter what I made, there was hardly a dime in the bank
. I asked him what he was doing with the money and he got defensive. This shit went on for months. I got fed up with his excuses, so finally I went through his email when his pockets just turned up fast food receipts—ain’t nobody eats enough fries to use up all that money. He had hookers. I mean a shitload of hookers. Six or seven of them a week. He set them up on a schedule during the work day. I’m up here at Cates Corporation keeping the boss’s schedule on a spreadsheet all nice and ordering the right cello bows while he’s getting his BJs from a ho.” She huffed.
“Like mine weren’t good enough for him. It goes to show my granny was right.
Men! Nothing’s ever good enough for them. You can be everything a man could want: pretty, modest, respectful, earn a good living, cook for him and walk around naked, and he’d complain you didn’t have three tits.”
Shannon snorted. She wasn’t sure if the laughter bubbled up from the idea of
Annelise being modest and respectful or the three tits comment, but she tried to stifle it.
“My granny had three different husbands before she was thirty and not a one of them stuck around.
It wasn’t her fault. They were just all rats. That granny of mine is a fine woman. My granny’s tall and she got a good shape, one of the best seamstresses around. She was a burlesque dancer back in the sixties, so you can’t tell me she wasn’t any good in the sack…that woman had some moves,” Annelise said proudly.
Shannon shook her head.
“I’ve been with my husband for seven years, Annelise. No hookers. Three kids, about to be four.” Shannon smiled, touching her stomach fondly.
“No hookers that you
of,” Annelise corrected sagely in a way that almost made Shannon nervous.
“That’s not a legitimate argument. Just because your fiancé was a sleaze doesn’t mean that all men are.”
“He gave me an STD!” She hissed. “I had to get swabbed and take a prescription. It was humiliating! I get to turn on this heated seat for consolation.” She flicked on her seat warmer and relaxed against the leather with intent.
“Did you have a good relationship otherwise?” Shannon ventured.
“Sure seemed like we did,” Annelise snapped. “I went to Victoria’s Secret and bought those lacy things, nineteen bucks for a pair of see-through underpants. Didn’t matter a bit. I gave up carbs. I was going to keep my man. He went and cheated on me, doing god knows what. Okay,
know what, ‘cause God probably ain’t speaking to that boy anymore.” She swung the car into a narrow space and pocketed the keys. Shannon, eyes round as saucers from informational overload, trailed after her and started munching on the chips and salsa when they sat down. Pregnancy made her hungry, and gossip made her ravenous.
“He sounds awful. What did you do before you were an admin? Did you have another profession?” Shannon asked, now that her curiosity about the fiancé was sated.
“I did braids,” Annelise said. “At a salon.”
“I know, I’m white, that’s what you’re thinking. The neighborhood I come from, everybody had dreads or cornrows. I learned how to do it, and I was fast and kept my combs clean. But I mouthed off to the lady that owned the shop, and I was a goner. So I took a computer class at the college, bought a secondhand suit at the Goodwill, and here I am.” She grinned. Shannon hugged her impulsively.
“I’m glad you’re here,
Annelise. That office was deadly boring without you. To tell you the truth, Mr. Cates is a lot more tolerable since you’ve got him in line.”
“Does he take meds?”
“Medicine. For his OCD.”
“How did you know he’s obsessive compulsive? Shh. Don’t EVER say that in the office. After he and Hannah got together, she talked him into seeing someone, but he won’t take the medicine. I know because he had me call and cancel the prescription at the pharmacy.”
“Okay, is Hannah on anything?” Annelise inquired curiously.
“For mental illness? No.
Not that I know of. Why?” Shannon asked, puzzled, and crammed more chips in her mouth.
“Have you spoken with her about this engagement party? She is so bad at making decisions
, there should be a charity for it,” Annelise declared.
“All brides are like that. The smallest things to do with a wedding start to seem like they’re
ridiculously important. What’s their theme going to be? Old Hollywood?
The Great Gatsby
“Theme? There’s no theme unless
Hannah Can’t Make Up Her Goddamned Mind is an acknowledged nuptial theme.” Annelise munched her salad with an emphatic snap of her teeth. Shannon tucked into a massive dish of chicken and sauce topped with sour cream.
“I’m glad you didn’t plan
my wedding. I was a total mess...nothing went right, and I was convinced the whole thing would be a failure if, like, the boutonnières were the wrong shade of pink. Like it was a bad omen for the marriage or something. You probably would have given me an earful,” Shannon mused.
“Only if you had it coming.
I really thought Hannah had her act together but once old Mr. Cates sprang the idea of the big engagement party on her it has been panic city. I would’ve thought she was old enough to know better.”
only thirty-six! I’m thirty-four, Annelise,” Shannon replied with dismay.
“Well, she’s just now getting married
the first time. I guess they marry young where I come from.” Annelise remarked carelessly, sipping her iced tea.
“And you are
how old exactly?” Shannon asked, guessing that she was at least twenty-seven.
“Twenty-three. Why? Did you think I was older because I have an authoritative voice
?” Annelise grinned, enjoying being outrageous. Shannon was fun to rile up.
“Is that street slang for a big mouth?” Shannon teased her.
“No, it’s the technical term for my knowledgeable assessment of the situation.”
“So you’re a smartass.” Shannon nodded sagely.
“Use whatever terminology you like. All means the same thing. I got an old soul. I know shit.” Annelise scooped up some salsa with a chip and smiled..
Before they even returned to the office,
Annelise had three fresh new voicemails, each more urgent than the last, from Hannah, the panicked bride-to-be. Annelise played them on speaker in the car.
Miss Hollingford, this is Hannah Largent. The people from the party venue called and left a message, and I don’t understand what they want. I’m looping English dialogue for a film from Singapore today and I’m completely covered up. Would you mind calling them?
Hello, Miss Hollingford, this is Hannah again. I think the venue that called is the one that doesn’t have a koi pond in the outdoor space, and I really wanted photos by a koi pond to use for our thank you notes. The stationers had a sample that looked stunning, and I want to do something like it—Jasper didn’t like it but Becca does and she’s been in like five weddings and anyway, so could you please find out if this is the one that has the koi pond? If not, I want to switch to the one with the pond. Thanks!
Miss Hollingford, this is Hannah Largent. I’ve got a deadline looming with the Singapore job and I really can’t deal with this myself. I’m sorry to bother you again, but now the caterer is, um, no longer catering. I think they got arrested. It’s on the news. Something to do with a drug bust. I just got an e-mail and I’m forwarding it to you now. We have to find someone new to do the food! Please!
“Give her a break. This is huge to her. If the caterers were arrested or something, that is a legitimate emergency. Ooh, can we stop for frozen custard?” Shannon cooed, pointing toward a custard shop with a line outside the door.
“Ugh. I don’t think I can eat any
, but I’ll swing in here if you want some.” Annelise maneuvered her newly leased automobile into the drive-through lane of a custard shop and texted grudging reassurance to Hannah while Shannon debated the relative merits of the strawberry custard versus the mint.
“Listen, we’re in a hurry out here. I want a scoop of mint, a scoop of strawberry
, and a side of whipped cream and sprinkles,” Annelise barked into the speaker. Shannon gaped at her.
“I wasn’t actually going to order both.”
“You didn’t order both. I did. And that baby is
going to want some sprinkles. I know she will.” Annelise grinned. “As for the caterers being an emergency, I think Hamas breaking the cease fire in Gaza qualifies as an emergency..”
After she dropped Shannon at the office,
Annelise applied her new car to its real intended purpose. She drove to the venue and walked around. When she located a small koi pond at the back of the property, she snapped a picture and texted it to Hannah to satisfy her fish-related anxiety. The pond was in the open, not surrounded by trees in such a way to create an unflatteringly dim lighting that would require a photographer’s flash.
The venue’s manager wanted an approximate head count for the party
. His eyes bugged out when Annelise gave him an estimate of one thousand seven hundred. He muttered something about the fire inspector safety capacity and went off to find his file. She trailed after him, demanding to know the dimensions of the marquees they had available and whether there was a chandelier in one of them. Hannah had seen a marquee in a movie about five years ago, and it had a chandelier hanging from the tent ceiling and she thought it was pretty. Annelise tried to make this sound legitimately crucial, but it was difficult to keep a straight face.