“I don’t know, I’m afraid maybe he doesn’t want to be seen with me.”
“Don’t be silly! He’d have to be crazy. Is he crazy?”
I laughed and said, “Um, no. Not that I’ve noticed.”
“Then that can’t be the reason,” she said. “Did you tell him about this party before he told you about his?”
“That must be it then. He probably felt like he’d be tearing you away from your friends. You’re always so positive. I hate to see you doubting yourself, honey. Do you know where his party is at?”
“Yes, I saw a purchase order for it at work. It’s at The Omni hotel in Manhattan.”
“Then go to him, Robyn. You’ll be sorely missed here, but everyone will understand. I’m sure he’ll be delighted you showed up. Go quash this silly idea you have that any man in his right mind wouldn’t be so proud to have you at his side.”
She had me thinking. Would he be delighted? He was always so serious, but I did have a way of bringing him out, making him less reserved….
“I think I’m going to do it!” I told her with a smile.
“You go girl! Call me tomorrow with all of the details.” I hugged her and told her I loved her and then made the rounds to say my “Thank you” and “Good-Bye’s.”
I took a cab to the hotel in Manhattan. We arrived there in about an hour; traffic was thick because of the celebrations that were taking place. It was just after eleven when I got there, plenty of time to be kissing the man I cared about at midnight. I walked through the opulent lobby decorated in three shades of champagne from light to dark. In the center of the room was a sculpted granite fountain that they had lit up from underneath the water with a silver and gold graceful arch of water coming out of the center. I wanted to stop and make a wish in the fountain, but I didn’t think this was the kind of place where that would be seen as appropriate.
As I headed for the ball room, I noticed a security guard at the entrance. I opened my wallet and took out the extra name badge I kept there for work. Holding my breath and mentally crossing my fingers, I offered him a casual hello and flashed the badge. He looked at it and then gave me an appreciative once over before pulling open the door and allowing me to enter. Sometimes being a pretty girl defin
itely had its benefits.
I thought Tom and Nadine’s party was nice, but this one was nothing less than elegant. There was a champagne fountain and a chocolate bar and the sounds of a live band playing in front of a huge dance floor. The tables were adorned with silver and black linen table cloths and each one had a bottle of French champagne and a vase with orchids inside of it. Candles flickered and the lights were low and everyone was dressed in something with a designer label. The glitter of diamonds and jewels were everywhere. A shiny mahogany bar stretched along one long wall and that was where I saw him.
Aaron sat with a group of men. The cut of his suit accentuated every curve of his amazing body. It was obviously custom made. It was a dark, smoky grey and he wore it with a silver dress shirt and silver cuffs. I couldn’t see the cuff links from where I stood, but I’d seen them before. They would be silver as well and engraved with a beautifully scripted AW. Everything about him stirred longing and lust in the pit of my belly and parts further south. Smiling, I slipped on my mask and went over to where he sat. I leaned in close, surprising him and whispered,
“You’re the handsomest man in the room…but then again, you always are.”
Aaron turned to look at me. His face was riddled with shock and something else… disappointment, maybe. It was comparable to being poked in the chest with a heavy prong. He took my arm and we stepped away from the bar, out of earshot of the men he was talking with.
“What are you doing here?” he asked me. The tone of his voice was stern and cold with no traces of the warmth he spoke to me with when we were alone.
“It’s New Year’s Eve. I wanted to see you….”
“You shouldn’t be here, Robyn! I didn’t ask you here.”
Fighting the tears now that wanted to well in my eyes, I was grateful for the mask. “I just missed you. I’m sorry. I thought….”
“No, I don’t think you did think. You run around acting like a teenager sometimes. This is not some college buddy party that you can crash. This is my livelihood here, Robyn. I’d like for you to go.” He never raised his voice above a whisper, but his words were like being slapped in the face.
I didn’t say anything else…what could I say? I was mortified and again, thankful for the mask. I brushed past him and didn’t acknowledge the security at the door as he tried to tell me to have a good night.
I walked out into the night air, past the cabs that were lined up and the chauffeurs that waited for men like Aaron. Undoubtedly other men who felt they were too good to be seen with the women they were sleeping with. It was a cold night, but the ache in my heart radiated with the hot sensation of embarrassment and regret. I didn’t feel the cold, I was numb. I wandered down 42nd Street towards Broadway. There were hordes of people out and I just wanted to disappear into the crowd.
When I got almost to Times Square the fireworks started going off and the crowds were loudly cheering. It was midnight….and I was alone. Everyone around me seemed to be locked in an embrace of some kind. I realized if I had stayed with my friends, I would be too….at least wrapped in a hug by those who cared about me. I turned and started walking away from the revelries down 7th Ave. to the quieter corner of 43rd Street where I could catch a cab for home. I was thinking about how Aaron spoke to me and how disappointed he’d been to see me. I was in a dazed state, confused about how he could be so warm and loving in private, yet so cold tonight in that room full of people that he obviously didn’t think I fit into. I didn’t see the man who was following me until I felt him grab my purse and try and run with it. The strap was over my shoulder and when he tried to move forward, he pulled me with him. Instinctually, I pulled back. That was when he grabbed it hard enough to snap the strap and he pushed me out into the road.
I didn’t see the car coming….and thankfully I don’t remember the impact.
There was a bright light in my eyes. It was pressing so hard against my eyelids that it almost hurt. I wanted to open my eyes, and see what it was, but it seemed to be holding them closed. After a short battle, I slowly lifted them open. They were so heavy and the strong smell of antiseptic was burning my nostrils. I blinked a few times and tried to swallow. My mouth was as dry as a bone and my throat was parched and scratchy. When my eyes finally adjusted I could see that I was in a bed in a white room and the blinding light was the sun, coming in through the open blinds. I looked over to my right and saw an IV pole with a bag of clear liquid dripping through a tube that was apparently in one of the veins in my arm. I tried to lift my head, but it was pounding and the motion made me nauseous.