100 Days Project — #26

Abbie glanced at her watch: 20 minutes late. She’d read the articles on showing up early, but couldn’t imagine herself the first to arrive, and last to leave.

The handrail guided her up the steep stairs; the cold pole sliding through her fingers as she took in slow breath. At the top, she paused before rounding the corner. And there: each insecurity magnified in a crowd of friendly faces. To Abbie, they seemed all but friendly.

She glanced around the room; saw well-fitted suits and dresses, huddled in tight pockets, glowing with laughter. Abbie looked right and wondered who’d told the story; who had sent ripples, anticipation building with every word.

She noticed people holding twinkling plastic cups, and chuckled, ‘Yeh, black tie alright.’ She walked over to the drink table, observing as she felt the temperature of the room. ‘Ugh,’ she thought, ‘This is going to be awful.’

Abbie looked at the faces in the circle, straining to understand the meaning of their words. A comment about the merits of socialism. A Steve Jobs reference. ‘Of course, it had to be Jobs. Not relevant, but sure.’ Another excited switch. Abbie spoke up, just as someone else did the same. No one heard her, her voice drowned in the soft roar of the crowd.

In the restroom, she gazed at her reflection in the mirror. The loud room in front of her was muted by thick walls, covered in shimmery olive wallpaper. ‘Hm, you do look nice. Must be the lipstick.’ Abbie soaked in the quiet as she tightened the straps of her dress. ‘Okay, you can do this. It’s normal, easy. Happens all the time.’

She walked out, shoulders back. ‘Oh fuck, here we go.’

“Nice to meet you. I’m Abbie.” The formalities went on for a minute or two, as she learned and unlearned the names of most in the huddle. She waited, expectant of who would continue the dialogue. A thin wisp of silence. ‘Oh no.’ But the moment passed, almost before it had begun.

The woman on her right turned to her, leaned in and said, “I never know how to act at these things.” And the switch was on. Abbie knew she was safe. She grinned and said, “You seem to be doing quite alright.”

A few hours later, Abbie walked towards the staircase. The last of the crowd were rounding out their drinks; laugher the cheap currency flowing through the room.

She looked back, and inhaled; content. She smiled and thought to herself, ‘This. This is what you have to remember for next time.’

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