Surprise Party

The conversation with Angelina does nothing to satisfy my curiosity. But then I get a message, asking me to jump on a conference call about the report I submitted yesterday. I’m on the call for nearly an hour, editing the report as the discussion dictates; there’s more work I need to address when the meeting ends, and I eat lunch at my desk to get through the workload.

It’s the middle the afternoon now, and I’m checking my schedule for tomorrow. I’ve positioned my monitor at the front of my cubicle and the chair at the back, to avoid being surprised by people calling to me before I see them (I’m very focused when I work, and jump easily); I see Malcolm, one of our DBAs, walk by, and suddenly I remember a conversation we had a few weeks ago. Holy Family Church – Malcolm had invited me, and said I wouldn’t feel lonely, there were several co-workers who went there. He named a few – Charles from accounting, Jasmine from legal. And Murph.

I roll my chair out into the corridor, call out to Malcolm. “Got a minute?”

“Hey!” I’ve never seen Malcolm say anything without enthusiasm; he greets everyone like he’s just come back from a long, pleasant vacation. “What can I do for you?”

I open my mouth to speak – and realize the awkward position I’ve created for myself. I bite my lower lip, pat palms on the arms of my chair, and then it comes to me. “I’m having a party, at my apartment.” Well I am now, anyway. “Need some help — with the invitations.”

Malcolm’s tall, slender face wrinkles in confusion. “O – kay.”

I’ve already lost confidence in my story, but like a poker player going all in with two pair I continue with confidence. “It’s hokey, I know, but Darci’s got this idea she can’t let go.” I am in so much trouble if she finds out I’ve implicated her. “She wants to send invitations to friends, and their spouses.” A flash of inspiration strikes me, and I point into my cubicle. “I was looking at Murph’s profile this morning, but I couldn’t find — ” I stop myself before I blurt out Steph — “her name. I mean, St – Murph’s name. I mean, his wife. Her name.” I smile weakly up at Malcolm.

His head is tilted down, his expression blank and uncomprehending, like a fourth-grade teacher who’s been told by her star student that Columbus discovered America in 1776. “Stephanie.”

I raise my right hand toward him, snap my fingers. “Yeah, that’s it. Steph!” His knowing her name gives me the confidence to ask my next question. “So I take it you’ve met her?”

Malcolm closes his eyes a moment. Then re-opens them. “I believe so. Probably at a church picnic, or one of our outings.”

Sounds like a guess to me. “You don’t sound too confident.”

And then the exuberance lights up his face again. “I have a good memory for faces, and connecting them with names. I remember Stephanie’s name, but her face …” He frowns, and I feel remorse for causing his displeasure. “Maybe I haven’t met her, after all.”

“That’s OK.” I start rolling back into my cubicle. “Thanks.”

“So, when’s this party?” Malcolm’s voice is full of expectation, and after using him like I just had there’s no way I can uninvite him to my fictional party. I pick a date, two weeks from Saturday, and tell Malcolm he was already on the list. I then text Darci — U free 2 weeks from Sat?


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