Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Once Upon A Time - Part 3

Let Down Your Hair...

(Part three of a novella fairy tale)

Chapter 3

    I had to go into work extra early on Monday, to print out my list of garbage for La-ura about the new perfume campaign. I told her I accidentally dropped the bottle. It took every ounce of self-control I had, not to add: “on yer boyfriend’s penis!”
    We had a big department meeting and as I jumped into the elevator to ride down to the fourth floor conference room with the rest of the team, Dino got on right behind me. As luck would have it, I had been going cross-eyed all morning, looking out for him, wondering what he would say or do, or how he would look, or look at me. The second I let my guard down, poof! There he was.
    Gulp. “Goo...” I started. Then I coughed. I turned to face the front of the elevator and position myself among the other bodies. Then I probably turned a brighter color than Little Red Riding Hood’s cape. The whole Rapunzel debacle, as I was beginning to think of it, had put me into a grim fairy tale mode.
    “Hey, MaryBeth,” Dino said. “Skip, Rosie, Selene...” he nodded and greeted the morning’s cast and crew. Poor Susie, would I really make her try to figure this encounter out, too? I sincerely hoped not.
    La-ura was already in the conference room and was busy handing out the preliminary report I had done. Her smile, meant to be private and pointed at Dino, as if at an inside joke, might as well have been gussied up in bright neon lights announcing to the world, “I huffed and I puffed and I blew Dino’s...” I snorted. Damn, I was a gruesome ogre, the crone with a poisoned apple, the cropped-top Goldilocks who had no business sitting in someone elses boyfriend’s lap. This could not end well.
    The meeting didn’t do much to improve my attitude. With my heightened state of alert and all senses set to Dino, it was all I could do to answer when people had questions about Rapunzel.
    “People, people.” La-ura clapped her hands. We need to brand this and make it desirable to people who don’t have long hair, like men, and,” she backhanded her thumb toward me. “Even MaryBeth.” The room laughed.
    I swiped my palm over my head, hoping to kill two birds with one sweaty stone--act like I was cool with the teasing, and smooth down my hair to look like I meant it to look like it did.
    “Yeah, but La-ura, I don’t think ‘let your hair down’ is intrinsically for people with long hair.” One of the other copy writers, Steven, looked at me and nodded. “Right, MaryBeth? Didn’t you intend this to be a ‘let your hair down’ as in let loose, relax, party?”
    I nodded my head, my eyes darting toward Dino. He saw me and quickly looked down, tapping his pen on the table. I just couldn’t read him. The girl who still believed in happy endings knew that he had to feel the same way I did. He was just playing it cool, until things could be sorted out. Like, until he dumped La-ura’s sorry ass and proposed to me.
    My stomach churned, not buying any of that. I have been accused of being a glass half full girl. This time, however, the pessimism in me was filled to the brim, in fact it was even spilling over the edges; the only thing I had left that I could count on was my belief in my pessimism that things weren’t going to turn out well at all. In addition to being loved and left, I wouldn’t have been surprised had I even been mauled by three bears.
    I fiddled with my pen, wishing I could take a nap. I was so sleepy and bored I began to write grocery lists in my head to try to stay awake, and to stop thinking about ‘what-ifs’ with Dino.
    “What’s this pher0mone stuff about?” Joe, another account executive asked. “It sounds kind of hot.” I had included a synopsis of ingredients in my report, and briefly detailed the super-secret Ph-uX. I took a deep breath and cleared my throat and prayed to God that my cheeks weren’t nearly 1/100th as flaming hot as they felt. Before I could respond, La-ura spoke up.
    “P-H-dash-U-X is a proprietary ingredient that we don’t want to bore our consumers with. Some scientific mumbo jumbo doesn’t sell. Sex sells.”
    Ain’t that the truth, I thought, my eyes inadvertently winging left to seek out Dino. Was he actually whistling, trying to appear innocent? He looked like he would be confessing to the whole office in a matter of seconds. I could just hear him now, whistling his tune and singing:

“Hi ho, hi ho, off to work I go.
I love my boss,
But I screwed and lost...
And what’s the cost?
Hi ho, hi ho...
A magic potion,
A big commotion,
There goes my promotion...
Hi ho, hi ho...
Cheers to the aphrodisiac
I morphed into a maniac,
Thanks to Ph-uX,
My life really sucks.
Hi ho...hi ho...

    Dino was looking down, I couldn’t make out his expression.
    “Really, La-ura? Sex sells?” Thank goodness Steven interrupted again. “Well, maybe we need to take a look at your secret ingredient again.” I knew it would only be a matter of moments before someone figured it out. “P-H-dash-U-X? Think about it. Say it out loud.” People around the table started laughing.
    La-ura looked around blankly. “P-H-dash-U-X.” She raised her hand and shrugged. “So what?” Everyone started laughing louder.
    “PHUX!” Someone finally called out. La-ura stood there with her arms crossed, waiting for people to stop: giggling, wiping their eyes, and saying “phew.”
    “Are you quite finished?” she asked. A few more laughs answered her. “Grow up.” She picked up my paper again, and read it closely.
    “MaryBeth!” She barked in my general vicinity. “We’ve all heard of pheromones, but what’s the deal? Do you mean to tell me Rapunzel is claiming to have a secret ingredient, one that makes it an aphrodisiac?”
    Twenty eyeballs stared me down, waiting for my response, but the only ones that mattered, the brown sparkly ones that had shimmered and nearly wept over me, were now busy, suddenly occupado; seemingly mesmerized by his long, strong fingers rubbing at an imaginary smudge on the laminate tabletop. I stared at the rubbing motion, moving back and forth, a synchronized rhythm that caused me to shift in my seat. I crossed my legs.
    “Ah, MaryBeth!” La-ura repeated again. “You’re the only one who smelled it. What did you think? What was it like?”
    “It was nice,” I finally managed to say. I wished again for the kabillionth time that my superpower was the ability of super fast, witty repartee. I could be SmartMouth Woman. SassyPants. Barring that, I’d even settle for a pause button, one that would allow me time to write out my responses to whatever life threw me. If only I could edit my words, re-write, clean up, delete and rearrange, check for typos and grammatical errors, before engaging the send button. My work performance would be enhanced, for sure, to say nothing of my love life. Oh, to be able to orchestrate the words I needed, like a maestro directing a concert with a pen, and have the time to consider, or better yet, reconsider, the most appropriate responses.
    “It was nice? What does nice smell like, exactly?”
    “It was a very fresh, clean smell,” I said, biting my lips, trying to snort out the smell of lust that lingered, clinging to some memory molecule from Friday night. The room waited, uncommonly silent. “Undertones of patchouli and citrus,” I mumbled. I shrugged my shoulders and doodled on the paper in front of me.
    “Any phux effect you’d care to share with us? Did you notice anything before you, ah, ‘spilled’ it?” The room laughed, as La-ura used air quotes around the word spilled. “What?” La-ura continued. “Did you drink this stuff? Did you get lucky? Did it turn you into a sex machine?” She fired off questions, looking like she actually wanted a response.
    ‘Didn’t have to,’ ‘Yes,’ and ‘Yes!’ I wanted to burst out. “It definitely had something different...” I began. “It smelled different in the bottle, more medicine-like, almost antiseptic. Then, when I dabbed it on my wrists,” I made the motion, waving my right wrist around, “it was very light and soothing. It was like I couldn’t stop smelling it, like I was addicted to the scent and trying to find out what the aroma was.”
    La-ura swished the air in front of her, waving me on to continue. “Did you get turned on?”
    “La-ura,” Dino said. “Seriously, lighten up. You’re putting MaryBeth on the spot. We’re here to sell perfume. If it has an X-factor or phux factor, cool. We can sell that; like you said, sex sells. But to think there is some magic hocus-pocus serum that turns people into sex maniacs...well...” he finished with a small laugh. Was it just me or did that laugh sound rather pathetic.
    Eyeballs now swiveled toward Dino. La-ura was no dummy. “Why are you defending little Miss Muffet?” She jerked her head toward my end of the table.
    Perhaps because a little over 48 hours ago he was sitting on my tuffet? I thought despondently.
    I dared a smile at him, and his answering look semaphored back an accusing glare at me, as if to say, “you bewitched me,” giving him a free pass out of the little pickle he was in.
    “So, did you give Rapunzel a test drive after you spilled it?” La-ura asked me. Believe it or not it was her way of apologizing.
    I gave a little shake to my head. No. “La-ura,” I said. “Sorry. It is kind of awkward. I’m just a little embarrassed,” I said with a gush of laughter. “I thought it was a great perfume, and I think it could have a lot of potential for marketing. People love secrets, people love sex, and if you put the two together...” I drifted off, shrugging my shoulders and extending my hands. “When I read the disclaimer at the bottom of the page, I have to tell you, I was intrigued.”
    “What disclaimer?” Joe asked.
    “Just about the pheromone that may or may not be included, being proprietary information, with a patent pending,” I said. “That info is often a template used as a matter of fact, just to cover bases, but it’s interesting how much detail they went into, including naming of a secret ingredient.”
    “Phux!” Joe said, slamming his hand on the table.
    While everyone else laughed again, I continued. “Yes. Patent pending, new, improved, consumers go for it. I think we should utilize the ‘wow’ factor as much as we can. I don’t know what the legal department would say, but it would be fun to get as close to the word ‘aphrodisiac’ as possible, without making unwarranted claims that could get us in trouble.”
    The eyes of all the men in the room seemed to glaze over, as if the word itself was doing its job. Even the women seemed a little uncomfortable; Peggy was tugging at her neckline, Angie was checking for split ends, and La-ura was running her hand up and down her thigh; you just knew she was making sure everyone knew she was wearing her infamous thigh-highs.
    “Anyway,” I said. “I called the company and ordered some more samples.” At that announcement, the whole table broke into clapping. Even though it wasn’t for me, I accepted their excitement with a nod. “Just wait.”

Stay tuned for part four...

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