Let Down Your Hair...
(Part five of a novella fairy tale)
Nick at Night used to rerun some pretty cool shows, like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. I was more team Samantha than team Jeannie, although I loved Jeannie’s bottle--it reminded me of my elevator. When it came right down to it what I loved most of all was the magic. Who hasn’t dabbled in love potions and magic spells, or trying to move objects with their mind, or even staring down traffic lights trying to force them to change? Doesn’t everybody do that? Susie pretends she never did, but then again she’s got her very own case of neurosis going on. Like she always, always puts her right shoe on before her left, every time. One time she tried to prove to me she didn’t have to but then I later caught her slipping off her shoes to do it “right.” She never lets food on her plate touch, and even admitted to me in times of stress, she counts her teeth with her tongue.
“And you call me weird,” I had joked with her.
“No,” she said. “I call you sad.”
Susie claimed that superstitions were one thing; soothing rituals of an orderly mind, but that believing in magic was downright crazy. Another pep talk followed with her telling me to have my dreams, sure, but be realistic. Ah, what does she know? I needed another dose of Susie like I needed another pimple in my ear. Reality, like a festering whitehead nearly blocking my auditory canal, though no one else could see it, was proving to be irritating beyond belief. But I had a secret weapon: another sample of Love Potion #9, Rapunzel. It was delivered to the office last night, to me. I told no one.
Cinnamon pop-tart with my name on it aside, I couldn’t wait to get out of bed the next morning. I showered, blew dry my hair in a record two minutes, I know, I know, not exactly a selling point of amazing beauty, and miserly dabbed on two light touches of Rapunzel behind each ear.
I may be able to (and actually have) slept soundly through the night impaled upon my own cell phone, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t eligible for some shiny magic star points on the belle of the ball dance card. The Princess and the Pea be damned, I was diva of my own destiny, micro-managing my very own personal focus group. I was conducting my own little experiment to see what, if anything, Rapunzul and her Phux effects had going for them--and me.
I sniffed, and physically had to restrain myself from dousing more elixir on my body. Just because I couldn’t smell it, didn’t mean it wasn’t working. I had no desire to become “the lady”--a middle aged woman who worked on the fifth floor and wore so much perfume she nearly couldn’t fit into the elevator. On the occasions I shared the elevator with her, I bonded with the other car-mates who were along for the odiferous ride; we would all practically meditate together in one giant mass sensory overload as we tried not to breathe.
I stared in the mirror, smoothed back my hair, threw back my shoulders and sucked in my stomach. I challenged the day to prove that Rapunzel had it, or not.
If the guy bumping into my boob as I clung to the handle riding the El to work was any indicator, maybe Rapunzel was emitting some powerful invisible lures. I was awash in feminine wiles I never knew I had. I didn’t think it was my imagination that I was whistled at walking toward my building, because I also received a tip-o-the hat. (Granted, the hat wearer was old enough to be my grandpa, but still.) I was three-for-three before I even set foot in the door at my office.
I couldn’t wait for the morning meeting, and my first sighting of Dino. I had had a suspicious unknown number hang up last night and was pre-tty, pre-tty certain it had been him. When I walked into the conference room, I sashayed all the way around the table, stopping to say “‘Morning, Dino,” before heading to the other end of the table to take my customary seat. I don’t know how one makes one’s eyes twinkle, but I’m pretty sure I did as I smiled back at him.
My contribution to the creative session for the ad campaign for Rapunzel was the magic. “We’re selling the possibility, nay, probability of romance,” I argued. “The cleaned-up, belle of the ball, fairy godmother-sanctioned airbrushed version of living happily ever after.”
“Did you just say ‘nay’?” Stella asked me. The group laughed.
“I’m channeling the old timey fairy tales.” I could feel the tips of my ears tingle. It was hard for me to speak out, in front of anyone, let alone this jaded crew. But they knew nothing of my secret weapon. Fools.
“Well bippety-boppety my boo, and call me Cinderella,” Stella said. “How do we turn the fairy tale of Rapunzel into sizzling hot sexy sales? And did another sample come yet?”
I swallowed and crossed my fingers. “I’ll check on that,” I said, not exactly a lie.
The senior writers and directors sat around rehashing what they knew of Rapunzel. Then they played a round of which fairy tale babe they’d most like to sleep with. Interesting, Snow White beat Rapunzel, two to one, a la MaryAnn beating Ginger. The meeting drug on, with a general consensus of going with one of my original ideas, as touted by La-ura.
“Listen up,” La-ura said, clapping her hands. “The art department needs a decision now. We just don’t have any more time. We have to have this ready to present in two days. I’m not proud of it, but I say we go with ‘Happily Ever After.’ It’s the strongest theme we’ve got right now. We’re just going to have to have smokin’ hot visuals to try to camouflage the fact that this is a stinker.” She waved her hand in front of her nose and tossed her hair back. “Well, at least we’ll have something to show the client, and then be able to take their comments and see what direction they want to go in.”
The group began picking up their pens and papers, and standing up and stretching. La-ura sailed out and the second she was gone, I felt Dino at my elbow.
“Good job, MaryBeth,” Dino said. “I like it. ‘Happily Ever After’ is fun, and generic enough that with the right visuals our client could really go for it.”
“Thanks, Dino,” I said, inclining my head, feeling a burning within my bodice. Bodice? Where did that come from? I shook my head. “I have fairy tales on my brain,” I told him. “Believe me, it was no great stretch stealing that line. Besides, I love happy endings, don’t you?”
I couldn’t read the expression in his eyes as he stared down at me. Maybe because I’d always been so tongue-tied in front of him, he was surprised to learn I could string together a sentence or two, all without curtsying. Or maybe, he was remembering the other night. Or maybe, that dang perfume really was all that.
He looked around as the room cleared and leaned in closer. “I need to talk to you, MaryBeth. Can I take you to dinner tonight?”
Holy Moly, I thought. He was so handsome, he could do whatever he wanted to, including dropping trow, right then and there. I smiled, playing for time and trying to get my emotions in check. If I recalled correctly, the original Rapunzel did nothing but toss down her golden locks to earn the undying devotion of her one true love. I knew I had to work a little bit harder, and smarter. It was tough, but I wrinkled my nose and turned him down, with real regret.
“Sorry, Dino, I can’t. I have plans tonight.”
His face went blank. “Oh. Sure. Sorry. Last minute and all. I didn’t mean to...” he shook his notebook as if it were a a Magic Eight ball. “And I have to get ready for the client meeting, too. I should really...” He stopped and cleared his throat. “How about Friday night? Can we get together then?”
“Sure. Sounds good. It’s a date,” I said, looking meaningfully into his eyes.
He squeezed my arm and whispered. “I’ll call you.”
“Wheeeeeeee,” my heart beat as I headed back to my cubicle.
“Whoa,” my fairy godmother Susie tried to pull back on the reins. I had summoned her for a coffee break right after the meeting to bring her up to date.
“Smell me,” I said, offering her my head. She took a whiff and pushed me away.
“I smell nothing,” she said. “Even though you look different.”
“Different how?” She squinted at me and then shrugged.
“Good. Perky, I guess.”
“I’ll take your perky and see it with a fine.”
“You are in a good mood, I see.”
“I’ve been flirted with since I woke up this morning,” I told her. “I’ve never seen anything like it. This Rapunzel perfume could revolutionize the world!” I told her, waving my hand and nearly spilling her cup of coffee.
“You really believe that?”
“Yes. I got another sample delivered to me last night. I used it this morning and, ‘voila’! You see before you a fairy princess.”
“You don’t honestly believe that, do you?”
I nodded and giggled. “The facts don’t lie. The first night I had it, look what happened between me and Dino. It was heaven. Then, we spilled it and I will spare you the details of where we spilled it and what happened next.” I fanned myself. “So then, I didn’t have any more Phux and he looked like he didn’t know what to do with himself. He couldn’t figure out how to behave, or how to talk to me, or if he should call me or not. He was very confused.” I shook my head at the poor boy. “And now, I’m wearing it again and poof! He asked me out for tonight.”
“He did not.”
“Yep. And get this. I said, ‘no thank you, kind sir, I have plans.’”
“Bravo!” Susie smiled. “I can’t believe you had the self control.”
“I’m telling you. It’s all Rapunzel’s fault. I’m going to yoga tonight and I’m going to wear this magic elixir everywhere I go...”
“Until it runs out.”
I clapped my hand over my heart. “Bite your tongue. I can get more.”
“You’re like a heroin addict.”
“Yeah, well, and I’m not going to share.”
“Gee, thanks. Besides, don’t you need to let La-ura and the others check it out?”
“Sucks for them,” I said, winking over her shoulder at a business man waiting in line for his coffee.
“A perfume cannot be responsible for your happiness,” Susie said.
“It can, it will, it is,” I said.
“What happens when it runs out?”
“You think my life will rot like a pumpkin in November? Oh ye of little faith.” Even though we weren’t touchers, I took her hands in mine. “This is the new me, courtesy of Rapunzel and good ol’ Phux!” Even though I had barely sipped my coffee, I felt as if I had snorted ground espresso beans. I was kinder, wiser, better. The world was bigger, brighter, righter.
“I liked the old you better,” Susie said, sliding her hands out of mine.
Stay tuned for part six...