“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”
I remember Angela quoting that to me when we were doing a tutorial for the Journalism part of my degree. It was only one part of many for me, whereas, for her, it was to become her bread and butter.
She had taken up the role of a reporter on the campus newspaper, and she was inclined to write sharp pieces that would later point to how she would approach the job at the local newspaper, a job assured there for her based on her department head’s glowing recommendation.
Her vendetta against Emily had begun from day one at university and only grew more acrimonious each year. Emily had hardly helped her situation by joining her equally entitled friends and behaving badly.
She knew my secret feelings about Emily and had often mocked me for it, especially after we didn’t find mutual ground. It was probably the one relationship on campus I regretted.
It seemed inevitable that I was about to get entangled with her again, after trying so hard to keep out of her sight. I had scored a piece, the smartest kid in college, but it was hard to tell if it was a character assassination or just a bio that might land me a useful job.
I didn’t bother calling up and asking her.
Xavier had just spent the last half hour roasting me for going to the ball and then demanding to know when and where I had fallen for the meanest girl on campus.
“I hardly think fallen is the word I’d use. I like her, surely that’s obvious because she’s a reasonably likeable girl.” It was difficult to find the words that dodged the bullet that was coming straight at me.
Xavier was a friend, but this would stretch it. She was, categorically, the enemy.
“Perhaps,” I added, “with my new special status, I can put in a good word for you. I know she knows Amy, and I know you like her, and that’s no different to my situation.”
He shrugged. Like me, I don’t think he would ever confess his undying love to a girl who would have no hesitation in humiliating him. “Don’t. I prefer the wistful looking for a great distance and using my imagination. What was she like to dance with? I heard it was a Viennese waltz.”
“It wasn’t anything special. You did the Arthur Murray lessons like I did. And you would have fitted in. The people were just people, Xavier.”
We both looked up at the same time to see Angela chugging her way across the cafeteria towards us.
“That’s my cue to leave. You think I’m pissed; just wait till she gets here.”
And he was gone in the blink of an eye. He hated Angela more than I did. I thought of running, but what was the point. She would just chase me down until I surrendered. Better now than never.
She sat down, no tasking if it was alright, and pulled out her recorder and notebook. She was nothing if not thorough.
“I’m assuming you’ve come here for an interview, though I’m not quite sure why.”
She shook her head, the trademark scowl getting a little deeper. “I hope you’re not going to try and act dumb.”
“Who said it was an act. I believe you told me, once, that I was the dumbest boy on the planet. You’re being an authority on the subject, I accepted my lot.”
The scowl deepened. “You’re going to be a pain in the ass, aren’t you?”
I shrugged. “You reap what you sow, Angela.”
She switched off the recorder and softened her expression. “Off the record, for the time being. What were you thinking, going to that ball?”
“It was a perfect opportunity to put my Waltzing skills to the test. You don’t get that kind of dancing opportunity every day.”
“With Emily, though?”
“She’s just a girl, Angela.”
“One I might add you are so obviously enamoured with.”
“How could one not be, at the moment. I have had a crush on her for quite some time, yes, but up close and personal, it was not something I was going to pursue on or off the floor. Not the time or the place.”
“How did you get an invite?”
“How did you?”
She shook her head. “Try answering some of the questions, or I’ll just have to imagine what the right answer is.”
“OK. Let me ask you a question. Were you appraised of my brain out a week or so ago in this very cafeteria where I chewed out both the girl herself and that idiot boyfriend of hers?”
“It was mentioned. People were surprised, but not shocked. You and she have a very rocky sub-history.”
“Exactly. Her father wanted to meet someone who doesn’t try sucking up to her because of who she is. He invited me for that reason only. You can ask him if you like.”
“I have. You impressed him, and that is very difficult to do. Are you thinking of working for him? He seems to think you would make an excellent fit given your academic history.”
“You mean, marry the boss’s daughter? That’s so 1950s cliché Angela. If anything were to happen between us, and that’s very unlikely, I wouldn’t want to work for him, and things go south. No, not considering it. I have offers from New York, Washington, and Philadelphia. Or I might just stay here and compete with you for a job on the paper.”
Another shake of the head. “You’re very good at ducking and weaving. Perhaps you should consider becoming a politician.”
“I couldn’t, I’m too honest.”
She snorted. “You haven’t told me the truth yet, William. She likes you, that was plain to see when you were together. Her official line is no comment to any of the questions I asked her, and your obfuscating, which smacks of collusion. I’m going to keep my eye on the two of you because there’s a story here.”
“You’re talking about a fairy tale, Angela, and they are just that, tales. You know I like her, and I have for a long time, unrequited love I believe it’s called. I had an argument with her, and it amused her father to invite me to an event that normally I’d never get an invite to because of who I am, and I’m sure all the toffs had a lot of laughs over it at my expense. Emily was there, we danced the waltz, it was fun, and I surprised her in that a slum boy could actually wear a tuxedo and look good, and actually dance in time to the music. That’s the story.
“As for the job, you know as well as I do, Rothstein invited the top 10 college students to an orientation day where they get to see how the company works, and then get a job offer. I’m in the top ten so that’s a no-brainer, even for you. There are no special attachments to it. Knowing or not knowing Emily is not a precursor to getting an offer.
“And as for an ongoing relationship, do you see us together, here, now? No. I am as distant from her horizon now as I was yesterday and all the t=yesterdays before that. I am not going to treat her differently now I’ve been to a ball and danced with her, she is still the same pain in the ass girl she always was, only at the end of this year I will be put out of my misery, and she will move on to the next shiny toy in the toy box.”
“So, you’re not expecting anything to happen?”
“Me? No. They’re the Rothstein’s. Rothstein’s do not mix with people like me. People like me are put on this earth for their amusement. We all are.”
She shrugged. “You make it so black and white, but I don’t think it is. This isn’t over, William.” She picked up the recorder and the notepad and put both into her backpack. “Next time.”
I was hoping there wouldn’t be one.
© Charles Heath 2023