“So you know this stumbler?” Sarah asked.
Rachel, for a split second, forgot Sarah was even there.
“I’m sorry. Sarah this is Jason Swisher. He works for Davenport Industries. He interviewed me this morning.”
Jason and Sarah were already shaking hands. “If you can call it that,” he said. “It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Sarah.”
He let go of her hand and continued to adjust and readjust his shirt to try to get the wetness away from his skin. He looked around, as though he was expecting someone to pop out of thin air with a change of clothes.
“I’m confused,” Sarah said, ignoring his discomfort. “What do you mean ‘if you can call it that?’”
“Jason got pulled into a meeting just as we were going to look at my portfolio.”
Jason was flagging Tony. When he made eye contact, Jason made a lasso type motion in the air, and his head bobbed at both Rachel and Sarah, too.
“Sarah, Rachel and I were having a wonderful conversation, and then I received a call from one of our overseas clients. I could not escape the tongue lashing, nor could I get off the telephone.”
Rachel was impressed. He used Sarah’s name. She recognized that in the society of fast fingers and shortened text, it seemed that people had been losing the fine art of communication. How many times had she met someone and she knew within five minutes they had forgotten her name? Jason was making a concerted effort not to let that happen, just by saying Sarah’s name.
“I had a lovely interview with you, and Mel was very nice,” Rachel said.
“Yeah, she liked you, too. I need to check my schedule to see when I can get you back into the office to look at that portfolio.”
“Just let me know,” she said. “I am very interested in the position.”
“Excuse me ladies, these are on the gentlemen.” Tony placed six shots on the bar. It looked like a cherry bomb. Sarah’s eyes grew wide and she clapped like a child.
“Yummy!” she said.
Rachel could feel her own face crimson. She wanted so desperately to get the job, and she didn’t need the child-like attitude of her best friend to make him think she was not serious. She was and could be very serious. Luckily, Jason laughed.
“I’m glad you approve,” he said. “Let me just get my buddies over here, and we can all do it together.” He placed his hand on the small of Rachel’s back. “Excuse me for a second, Ladies.”
He walked toward the other end of the bar where a group of guys were amassed.
Sarah leaned in. “He is super cute, and don’t think his body language went unnoticed.”
Rachel rolled her eyes. Sarah was a forever romantic. She had a way of analyzing every movement, every look, every touch between a man and a woman.
“Whatever,” Rachel said defensively. She didn’t want to admit that she felt a physical attraction for Jason since this morning. She could still feel the warmth of his hand on her back.
“Don’t whatever me. The way he looked at you. The fact that he bought us shots. The fact that he just touched you.”
Sarah had a way of getting into Rachel’s head. She did not want to over think it. She did not want it. She wanted a job. She did not want a romance. Rachel glanced over at Jason who was facing her. He was gesticulating with his hands, and she could see that he was telling the story of what just happened. He poured a fake beer on his shirt, wiped it off, motioned a look of surprise, and then continued to speak. Clearly, he was explaining what had just happened, and he was convincing his friends to come to the bar for shots. Rachel could see the face of one friend, but his other two friends’ backs were to her. Nonetheless, she already knew who they were. These were those twenty-somethings who worked hard and played hard. They were probably all attractive, they dressed well, and they were adventurous. These were the types of boys she usually avoided in college. Their arrogance seemed to speak louder than anything they really had to say, and she felt like anytime she got to know any of them for more than a second, they always fell into two categories: they either wanted to hang with the boys and share their brotherly bond over beer, or they wanted to flirt with girls because they were in the mood for a quick meaningless lay.
Rachel turned back to the bar and took a sip of beer. Sarah was fawning over Tony. “Umm, Sweetie, you need to put your tongue back in your mouth,” she said to Sarah. “He’s not a steak.”
Sarah laughed. “Yeah, yeah. I just think he is so cute. How do I get a date with him?”
“I don’t know. He asked me to apply here. If I get a job here, I could work my magic as matchmaker.”
Sarah’s eyes lit up. She leaned over and put her hands on Rachel’s legs. “Would you do that for little ole’ me?” She batted her eyes.
“Maybe.” Jason was still talking and he said something that caused an uproar of laughter. No one turned to look at them, so she was pretty sure, they were in a different conversation. “Hey, I’m going to run to the restroom. It will only take a second.”
Rachel stood up and headed up the stairs. Luckily, it was still early enough in the evening that there wasn’t a line. After she washed her hands, she looked hard at herself in the mirror. She had such a young, plain face. She didn’t have knockout qualities. It was hard to imagine that Jason had really been flirting. He was in marketing and advertising. He stroked and schmoozed customers all day long. She assumed that those habits were so subtly submerged into his subconscious that they became part of his personality. He was overly flirtatious and nice by default. For some reason, this idea calmed her. She adjusted her brim, pulling it a little lower over her eyes. She wanted their relationship to be friendly, but professional. More than anything, she needed this job.
She exited the restroom and walked back downstairs. The men were surrounding Sarah, and per usual, they were mesmerized by her. Sarah’s personality drew people in. Rachel had never met a man, woman, or child that did not immediately take to Sarah. It was her gift as well as her fault. Sometimes, Rachel saw that it intimidated people, and Sarah saw that, too.
Walking back toward the group, Jason caught sight of her first. “There she is,” he said in a familiar tone. Jason put out his hand as if to draw her in, and all of his friends turned around. “Rachel, these are my friends. This is Tyler, Ace, and….”
“Peter.” She could feel her face flush. She felt the tension sweep over the moment. Sarah’s eyes furrowed, and she knew everyone was staring at her. She had not seen him in almost two years. She had heard that he had taken a job in Cleveland, but she did not expect they would run into each other. He was a hipster East-side boy. She was west-side through and through. Never the twain shall meet. However, with Sarah’s influence, Rachel had become more calculating over the years. She had played countless scenarios in her head, one of which had been meeting him out somewhere through a friend. She knew she had a split second to recover.
“Peter,” she leaned in to give him a hug. “It is so nice to see you.”
She released Peter and smiled at him. She could sense his discomfort, although it was not visible to the naked eye. Rachel knew his tell. Whenever Peter was nervous, a nerve above his eye would twitch, and his eyebrow would shake ever so slightly. She remembered the exact same stoic look on his face the day he returned from Spring Break, had it not been for the tell, she would never have known how distressed he truly was.
“It’s nice to meet you all.” She shook the hands of both Ace and Bob.
“You know each other?” Sarah asked.
“Yes,” Rachel said smiling, returning to her stool, “Peter and I were at Purdue at the same time. I haven’t seen him in over two years.” She did not want to say more. She did not want to say that he had broken her heart. She di not want to say what she was thinking, Jason’s friend was an asshole, and she seriously questioned his integrity as well.
“That’s awesome.” Jason leaned into the bar and picked up the shot glasses and began to dole them out. Everyone brought their shot glasses together. “To a second interview with Rachel, to the Tribe winning, and to old friendships reacquainting.”
Everyone touched glasses. Peter avoided eye contact with her. Rachel and Jason were the only two to tap their glasses on the bar before they drank. After Jason placed his empty glass on the bar, he stood close enough that his leg was just ever so lightly brushing against hers.