At the beginning of the year, I started a fiction project, Second Chances with New Vintages. I hoped that it would be a regular feature – Monday Fiction Series – unfortunately, I only wrote Part I, Part II, and Part III. The project grew dormant because of my own lack of persistence. Some recent conversations with a couple of friends gave me new inspiration to attempt to complete the project. With great apology for anyone who was interested, and sincere hopes that the story can reach a reasonable close, I give you Part IV of Second Chances with New Vintages (if you have not read the first three installments, I will not begrudge you for skipping the following post as it will make little sense absent that context.)
Cynthia woke to her shrill alarm at 6am. She rose to a ninety degree angle and tried to process the events of the last day. Her head was spinning but couldn’t produce enough centrifugal force to sift fact from dreamy fiction. Did she really go to a hotel bar on a school night? Drink too much champagne? Have whole conversations in French despite never having learned the language? Give her phone number to a strange man in a bar?
Cynthia scanned the room for clues that she wasn’t losing her mind. There was nothing particularly comforting about her familiar surroundings interrupted by the Navy Blue cocktail dress hanging from the left door of her oak wardrobe. A few minutes after waking and Cynthia still hadn’t noticed that she slept completely nude rather than in a faded t-shirt and old shorts from her last boyfriend. When that realization hit, it was enough to make her run to the shower hoping the water would ctrl-alt-delete her head.
Setting the shower to the hottest setting she could stand, Cynthia tried to reset. She leaned her head back closed her eyes and tried to will her mind to be still. If ever there was a morning to use the fancy body scrub that Katie gave her last Christmas, this day was it. She took slight and atypical pleasure in the faint pain of the sea salt and almond oil rubbing against her skin. It was the same sensation when she reached for the slightly scruffy towel from the rack. After running a blow dryer through her hair, brushing her teeth, and staring in the mirror for longer than normal, Cynthia began to get back to her normal baseline.
Reaching into the top drawer of her bureau she spied the gleaming earrings sitting on top next to her smallest clutch and in front of the perfume she never wears. The whole afternoon and evening flashed back through her memory. Meeting Mini, learning about Freddie, the dress, the earrings, the cravings for champagne, the speaking French, they all formed a kaleidoscope saturated with vivid colors and blurred only by the intellectual anarchy that undermined her sanity.
“Keep it together, make it through this day” Cynthia half thought half murmured to herself. She hurriedly dressed in her corporate uniform – khaki skirt, light blue polo shirt, and darker blue cardigan for her chilly office. She placed the earrings back in the satchel Mimi slipped around the dress hanger and tossed them in her standard purse. As she drove to the office, Cynthia tried to apply logic to the incongruity of the past 18 hours, to assign debits to the “real” and credits to the “strange.” She had watched just enough Grey’s E.R. and House’s Anatomy to wonder if a brain tumor was causing her uncharacteristic behavior and altered voice. Calling her doctor was the most practical action she reasoned.
True to her plan, Cynthia called her doctor and tried to explain her concerns without sounding crazy. The response was typical HMO: There are many things that could cause what you experienced, a brain tumor was beyond the least likely scenario, and if the problem persists, schedule an appointment for next week. It was far from reassuring but sufficient to let her push hew way through a work Friday morning.
At lunch, Cynthia grabbed her purse and drove to Second Chance Vintage to pay for the earrings (if they’re costume) and return them in the unlikely event that they were real.
Mini was sitting at her desk when Cynthia entered. Without looking up, Mini said “so did you have fun with Freddie last night?”