Doing the Lunch Thing (We’ll See How That Goes!)
She woke up to those same brown eyes staring down at her, but some of the fire had receded. Orlando looked merely worried as she broke into consciousness.
She heard Samantha say, “Orlando, I swear—your lips are killers.”
Orlando chuckled at the comment, all the while looking at Gretchen. “I do believe it’s an English thing.” He helped Gretchen sit up on the couch. “There now. Are you alright? You look awfully pale.”
Gretchen sighed and touched her forehead where a headache was forming. “I think I overdid it today. I didn’t get to eat lunch…”
“You should be more careful next time,” Orlando chided.
“Thanks for the obvious,” Gretchen muttered, climbing off of the couch and onto her feet. “I’m not an idiot you know.”
“Well, sometimes that’s questionable,” Orlando said, sounding more on the borderline of pissed between pissed and passive.
Gretchen narrowed her eyes at him. “Oh, don’t you start.”
“Hey, hey!” Chris cried. “Now you two already made up once. Kissed and made up,” he added in a wry tone. “Not exactly in that very order…”
“Should we finish the game?” Melanie asked. “Gretch? How do you feel?”
Gretchen shrugged. “You guys can. I’m gonna—”
A knock on the door interrupted her sentence. Frowning, Gretchen went to answer the door warily. Standing her doorstep was a guy holding a bouquet of roses. Gretchen tilted her head quizzically.
“Delivery for Miss Gretchen Thomas,” said the guy. Gretchen signed her name as her friends came up behind her to see what was going on. Gretchen gave him a tip and closed the door.
“Well, well, well,” Samantha said, crossing her arms. “Looks like Mr. Wonderful strikes again.”
Gretchen wasn’t listening. She was reading the card with a smile on her face and headed back to her bedroom. She slammed the door behind her.
“I’m jealous,” Samantha remarked. “I wish I had a guy to give me flowers.”
Melanie shook her head. “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be, Sam. Don’t you know the symbolism of flowers?”
Chris broke in between them. “Uh, I think we should call it an early night. I really don’t want to hear another feminist lecture.” For this he earned a pinch from Melanie, and not the loving kind. “Ouch. Damn! Geez. Let’s go, Orlando. Mel’s gonna kill me.”
“Damn right!” Melanie declared as she chased Chris out the door.
Samantha shook her head in amusement and turned to Orlando, who was chuckling at his friend yelling for mercy down the hallway. She kissed him on the cheek and laughed when he blushed again.
“I was just being silly earlier,” she told him. To Johanna, she said, “Really, I didn’t mean any harm by it. I was just playing around. I hope you don’t resent me.”
Johanna mustered up a smile. “Oh, I…I don’t see you as a threat.” She looked at Orlando with bedroom eyes. “Believe me.”
It took all Samantha had not to plunge her fist into that simpering mouth. When she’d closed the door on Orlando and Johanna, she let out an exasperated growl and started to clean up before she treated herself to a long, hot bath. –
When Chris returned to his and Orlando’s apartment nearly an hour later, Orlando was sitting in the living room. He wore nothing but a pair of cotton pants and a thoughtful expression. Johanna was nowhere to be seen.
He took off his jacket and tossed it onto the arm of a chair nearby. “Where’s Jo—?”
Orlando put a finger to his lips. Chris nodded and sat down in the arm chair.
He let a moment pass before he asked, “I’m assuming you’re not burning another hole in your mattress because of what happened tonight.”
Orlando’s eyes were opaque. “I just can’t sleep. That’s all.”
Chris considered this, then said, “I’ll take that as a yes.” Orlando didn’t say anything. “Alright then. I suppose we are done here, because it’s obvious what I’m going to say.” Chris stood. “Good night. I’m going to sleep. I sure as hell hope you get some, too.”
Chris shuffled out, leaving Orlando on his own.
The truth was, Johanna was not the poster girl for nice. She was far from it. He’d wanted something new, different, light on the emotions and heavy on the senses (if you know what I mean). Though he hated to pay such a price for what was essentially sex, he wondered if Johanna was just not used to girls like Samantha and Gretchen and Melanie who were so forthright and determined. After all, they existed in different social circles. They had slightly different social mores. Perhaps it was difficult for Johanna to grasp the opinions of his friends, particularly the female ones. She just needed more time—
A hand on his arm made him jump. He turned to find Johanna looking sleepily at him.
“Why aren’t you in bed?” she asked.
Orlando sighed. “I can’t quite sleep.” He patted the spot next to him. “Sit down. We need to talk.” Johanna obeyed, looking a bit shocked that he actually wanted to talk.
“Listen,” he began, “I think things got a little uncomfortable for you tonight, and I’m sorry. I’m sure that Sam was just playing around.”
Johanna pouted. “She wanted to make me jealous. I just know it…”
He placed a finger on her lips. “Just listen. The truth is, all of you just need to get to know each other, I think. Those girls…can get quite intimidating to an outsider. Trust me, I know.”
Johanna considered this, then said, “But they’re always looking at me like I’m some bimbo or something.”
“Maybe to them, you are.” Johanna started to protest, but Orlando continued. “These girls grew up in a different world than you did. They’re feminists through and through, so seeing a girl like you might…”
“Make them jealous?”
“Confirm their beliefs,” Orlando corrected, feeling a tad bit flustered. “You’re a great person. You just have to convince them of that.”
Johanna’s pout deepened. “I don’t know how I can do that.”
“Perhaps some time with them without me is what you need,” Orlando suggested.
Johanna reluctantly agreed but…
* * *
…When Orlando suggested this to Gretchen and Samantha the next day at their apartment, they just stared at him as if he suggested that they’d take up doing drugs as a hobby. It seemed almost that outlandish.
“I don’t know,” Samantha remarked dubiously. “I mean, she doesn’t like us. I saw the way she looked at me when I…” She trailed off. “Never mind.”
Gretchen lifted a shoulder. “We don’t know that. She could…be different. She could honestly be a nice person.”
Samantha frowned at her cousin, but remained silent. A silent moment passed.
“Come on,” Orlando cajoled. “How bad could it be?”
* * *-
The immortal words of the O Dali ‘Lando turned out to jinx them.
The Day with Johanna started out at the Gracia Mall, at Abercrombie and Fitch. Samantha nearly gagged. Gretchen groaned and stood in between her cousin and Johanna, trying to prevent an altercation. She tried to find some of the clothes cute, but it wasn’t her style.
Johanna, however, had started out in full steam, and already had an arm laden with clothes. She tried them on while Gretchen and Samantha waited outside. After thirty minutes (a jiffy in Johanna’s estimation), purchases were made and the trio left.
Next, they went into Lolita, the shop Melanie had dubbed the “Whore Store.” It sold short skirts, skimpy tops, and risqué outfits designed for the innovating and the daring. Well, at least that’s what the signs said.
Inside, Johanna greeted the sales girls by their first names. Samantha rolled her eyes behind Johanna’s back. Gretchen crossed her arms over her chest, exasperated by her cousin. Resolved to do right by Orlando, she walked up to Johanna and commented upon a dress she was holding.
“Hey, that looks like it would look good on you,” Gretchen told her. “Really, it does.”
Johanna stared at her for a second. She thrust the dress at her. “No, it looks more like you.”
Gretchen looked down at the dress, and then at Johanna as she walked to a rack of skirts. She put the dress back and walked to the rack, too. She rifled for a second until she found a leather skirt with rhinestones on it. She gasped and snatched it up.
“Samantha! Come look!” she called. Samantha dubiously walked over. “Isn’t this so cool? You know, like rocker girl glam or something?”
Samantha nodded thoughtfully. “It looks like you, cous, though, it’s a miracle you found anything.” She pointed to the dressing rooms. “Go and try it on.”
Gretchen trotted off, leaving Samantha alone with Johanna.
“So have you and Orlando been friends long?” Johanna suddenly asked.
Surprised that she was even attempting to make conversation, Samantha crossed her arms over her chest. “A couple of years, I’d say. He’s a friend of the family. We met through Chris, who brought him home one day.” Samantha tilted her head. “Now I’ve got a question for you. What are your intentions with Orlando?”
Johanna lifted her chin. “I’m just enjoying a relationship with a good-looking, charming, and insatiable guy who shares some of my interests.”
“Gee,” Samantha snapped, “I didn’t think you knew big words.” Johanna glowered. “Save the bitching, because I don’t care for it. I’m gonna tell you this right now. If you harbor any malevolent little ulterior motives for your relationship with Orlando, you had better wash them right out of your system.”
Gretchen came out right at that second wearing the skirt. She could sense that something was going on. Samantha looked at her, then turned and walked out.
Gretchen stood in shock, then, forgetting that she was wearing the skirt, ran after her. The sales girl yelled after her. The electronic sensor set off the alarm but Gretchen wasn’t paying attention.
Moments later, Gretchen dragged Samantha back in, followed by a security officer who’d been nearby and had seen Gretchen flee the store. Gretchen proclaimed that it was time for lunch. Samantha said nothing.
They went to Belvidere’s for lunch. Johanna was shocked that they’d eat in such a place and jabbered about how good the gourmet cuisine was. They secured a table outside, and Cassandra came out to serve them herself.
“Hey guys,” Cassandra greeted them.
“Hey Cassandra,” Gretchen greeted back. Samantha remained silent.
Johanna’s eyes went huge. “You’re the Cassandra Strattford, the owner of this restaurant?” Cassandra answered in the affirmative. “Johanna Spencer. My father owns Spencer Industries.”
Cassandra raised an eyebrow at the tone. “Yes, so I’ve heard.” She turned to her cousins before she could say something impolite. “Jess’s in the kitchen today.”
“Chicken,” Gretchen declared. “Tell her to make the chicken.”
Johanna inquired about ‘the chicken.’
“It’s a special request dish that Jessica makes,” Cassandra explained. “It’s not quite within the criteria of our regular menu, so it’s relatively unknown outside the family. It’s chicken breast in a secret special sauce served with your choice of vegetables and rice.”
“Well…I’d like to try it,” Johanna told her. “It’s not very fattening is it?”
When Cassandra answered in the affirmative, Johanna switched to a salad. She, apparently, was ‘watching her figure.’ Samantha, who hadn’t weighed herself since high-school football, rolled her eyes and stuffed a roll into her mouth.
Cassandra disappeared to make the order. Not too long after, Jessica Thomas herself made an appearance, wearing jeans and a plain blue tee. Her long auburn hair was pulled back away from her face. She greeted her sister and cousin, then frowned at Johanna.
“Have I seen you somewhere before?” Jessica asked. “You look familiar.” Jessica then waved it off, deciding it wasn’t important. “Listen, Gretch, Sam, I’ve got some interesting news for you. Kai and I were talking this morning, and he’s producing this film called The Truth About Red Roses. It supposed to be really good, but we need some talent. Relatively unknown.”
Johanna’s eyes widened. This could be her big chance! Meanwhile, Gretchen just nodded and said she’d pass the word along to her friends in the drama department at the Sakura Center. Jessica gave her the information about the casting call, and Johanna made a mental note of it. Afterwards, Jessica left.
A moment passed. Without trying to seem too conspicuous, Johanna excused herself to the bathroom and exited with her purse.
With Johanna gone, Samantha finally spoke.
“If I have to stay within one mile of that narcissistic walking poodle for one more goddamn minute, I am going to scream!” Samantha cried, earning surprised stares from the people sitting at nearby tables. Gretchen patted her arm to try to get her to calm down. “Stop patting me, dammit. I mean it.”
“Samantha,” she hissed, “we have to do this for Orlando!”
Samantha threw her napkin onto the table. “Let him fight his own battles,” she snapped, and stood. “I’m leaving. I’ll see you later—unless you plan on making friends with her.”
Gretchen sighed. While she understood Samantha’s anger, she knew that Orlando would be disappointed if she didn’t at least try to make friends with his girlfriend.
Getting up herself, she found herself following Samantha out, intending to catch up with her.
“Samantha, wait!” she called. Hearing her name, Samantha jumped, startled and briefly paused. Gretchen thought that she had stopped because of her calling, but Gretchen soon learned the real reason.
The knot in the beaded bracelet that she, Chris, and Orlando had replicas of had come loose, and the earthy green beads had spilled onto the floor…
“Oh shit,” they both said in unison, as a server made his rapid and noisy descent to the floor, his tray flying upwards in an expensive shower of fine cuisine.
And this sudden cloud burst of sorts came completely down on Johanna Spencer, accentuated with horrified gasps and her shrill screaming.
“I’m going to fucking sue!” Johanna declared shrilly, giving both Samantha and Gretchen headaches.
With a heavy heart, Gretchen dug her cell phone out of her purse to call Orlando. If Samantha did it, it would most likely result in a shouting match.