April 30, 2012

Masquerade, Pt 1

I have a confession to make: I am in love with my boss.
If you knew him, you’d understand.  Andrew’s quite a charmer.  I’ve been his personal assistant for six years and every morning he’s in with a smile, blue eyes sparkling, greeting everyone by name… on Fridays he treats the whole office to coffee and pastries.  I suppose it only makes sense, though: he’s a senator, after all.  It’s practically his job to be charismatic and approachable.  Even so, I can’t help it… I’ve definitely fallen under his spell.

It doesn’t help that he’s terrifically handsome, to boot.  He’s in his mid-forties—which, I admit, is young for a senator—but you’d never imagine just from looking at him.  The man is tan and athletic, really keeps himself in shape.  His sandy brown-blonde hair is short and generally tousled, and even though I know he does it purposely to seem more accessible to his constituents, I find it genuinely adorable.  He hasn’t even started getting crinkles around his eyes yet, but he laughs a lot.  Personally, I think that’s the secret to his youth: he lives life with a winning grin on his face and a healthy dose of good humor.
I’m not the only woman to notice, of course, not by a long shot.  There’s virtually a line of eligible socialites waiting for a spot on his dance card.  He’s like Bruce Wayne, for goodness sakes—only hopefully without the dark past and secret habit of dressing up in black, form-fitting rubber. 
Of course, form-fitting black rubber wouldn’t look to shabby on him, either…
The thing is, those eligible socialites have several terrific qualities that I somehow missed out on.  Mostly oodles of money, fancy town cars, custom-tailored designer clothes… you get my drift.  Andrew pays me very well, certainly, but I drive a Camry.  It’s a nice Camry… but a Camry, nonetheless.  I’m not the sort to dress up in Dolce and Gabbana or Dior on a daily basis.  .And while I’ll dress in my classiest business formal for big events or public appearances… mostly I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl, and you can always tell those girls in a line-up against the debutantes who were born in Vera Wang diapers.
Those aren’t the only reasons Andrew hasn’t picked up on my feelings, though.  I know I could probably get his attention even in a jeans and t-shirt and even waving at him from the driver’s side of my tidy little Toyota.  The rich ladies intimidate me, sure… but the real problem is, I’m terminally, incurably shy.
Six years I’ve worked for him, and not once have I given him even an inkling that I find him so genuinely amazing.
Today, I resolved to change that.

A week ago, Andrew received his invitation to the local women’s society annual charity gala: a masquerade ball.  As I came across the gold and glittery envelope while opening his mail, the flashy harlequin mask emblazoned on the front almost seemed to wink at me, and—though I wouldn’t think of it until later—the first seed of my plan took root.
A masquerade party.  Could there be anything more perfect?
I scanned the invitation thoughtfully, tapping the envelope against my lips as I read.  A small, hand-scripted fold of stationary read that Andrew was being asked to participate in one of those Bachelor Auctions for the fund-raiser.  I knew of course that he would accept, and for a split-second the tiny seed of hope almost died before it could bloom.  The women who attended these events—and participated in these auctions—were the same women who could spin out and pick themselves up a brand new Tiffany diamond tiara at the drop of hat.  A bachelor like Andrew would be auctioned off at a handsome price that was far above my pay-grade.  A tiny, giddy little part of me almost thought I should ask for a raise as I set the invitation down on his desk, but of course that thought was immediately quashed.  What better way to make my schoolgirl crush painfully obvious and momentously awkward.
I put the invitation down and gathered together the rest of the mail, sorting it and dividing it appropriately, tossing the adverts and junk magazines and organizing the official correspondences as usual.  As I gathered the final collection up to deliver to Andrew’s desk, I slipped the masquerade invite right on top.  I imagined myself striding confidently into his office, dropping off the stack of letters and agendas, and whipping the invitation up with a grin.  Need a date? I would ask with a grin.  The thought actually brought a tiny smile to my face, but there was no way that was how it would play out.
I slipped into his office without knocking—I never needed to knock.  Andrew was on his phone but he flashed me a grin as I entered, giving me the mostly unnecessary  come right on in wave of the hand.  I gave him a polite nod as I dropped off his mail, and then, for just a second, I hesitated. 
The mask on the flashy invite stared back at me from the top of the pile of mail winking and glittering, laughing merrily.  I smirked at it, then back and Andrew—I would ask him.  This would be the day I went for it.
He had turned his back to me, engrossed in his phone conversation.  I felt a very tiny, awkward heat rise to my cheeks.  Without saying anything, I backed away from the desk and then snuck out of the room.
He probably already had a date, anyway.
Over the next few days, I mulled over that flashing, smiling mask on the charity invite, and the flirty, tenacious way its glittery promise kept nagging at me.  Andrew dropped it back on my desk the day after I delivered it to him, catching me entirely by surprise—as I was, of course, lost in thoughts of it already—as he instructed me to send an RSVP right away, with a hearty appreciation for being invited and a very enthusiastic YES to the auction request.  He actually had to ask me twice, since the sudden re-appearance of that mask shook me so unexpectedly out of my thoughts that for a moment I didn’t hear him.
“Sorry, of course, Senator,” I murmured after the second request.
Liz,” he chided.  “I’ve told you before, it’s Andrew.”
“Sure, Andrew.”
Atta girl.” 
He gave me a wink.  “And as long as you don’t call me Andy I’ll never call you Billy.”
“Nobody calls an Elizabeth ‘Billy’,” I muttered, which only made him laugh.
“Finish up your paperwork, we’ll be late for our luncheon at the university.”
I tucked the masquerade invite in my to-do tray, scribbled RSVP Charity Gala on my calendar, and straightened up the last of the files on my desk.  Just before leaving, though, I gave one last glace at that mask.
And that’s when I got my idea.

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