Once in the car she berated herself, pounding the steering wheel to punctuate her words, “Stupid, stupid, stupid!” She rubbed her eyes only to realize an instant too late that she had smeared her eye makeup. She quickly grabbed a tissue and flipped the mirror down to try to fix the damage. The mirror reflected not only her image but that of Angelo advancing on her parked vehicle. She froze with the iron fingers of panic clutching her heart and squeezing her throat. She did her best with the streaks of mascara. The tapping on the window sounded louder than gun shots. She rolled the window down and gave Angelo a feeble smile. All she could think of was how silly she must look.
He presented her a manila file folder through the window, “You dropped this in the elevator. I put all the papers back in and I promise I didn’t look at any of it.” He looked at her kindly. He wasn’t mocking her and there wasn’t a trace of meanness in his voice. Lu realized that her own insecurities were working overtime. She sighed audibly and thanked him. He waved her off as she drove away.
The offices of Polder and Swale were her next stop. Once inside she set to organizing the papers. It wasn’t difficult as most of them had been stapled together. She looked over her performance reviews. All of them labeled her a ‘top performer’. She had achieved all the set goals and went above and beyond in every category except one, social engagement. She hadn’t joined the golf outing, participated in the tug of war, or volunteered to play on the dodgeball team, but neither had most of the other women in the department. She handed the file to Lily. It was satisfying to get things started.
She made it home before she got the shakes. She sat in the cold garage trembling and asking what she had been thinking when she gave her phone number to Angelo. He was nearly a stranger. She struck the seat with her fist and it bounced up just missing her face. She managed to get into the house before her phone rang. It took just a second for the words to sink in. The call was to remind her that “Stinkerbell” was ready to be picked up at the shelter. Lu assured them that she would be arriving shortly. She then proceeded to do a happy dance through the kitchen before dashing to the car only to have to go back inside to get the carrier. In no time she was home again. She left him in the carrier for an hour while she let him settle down from the trip. After she opened the carrier he began to explore.
He was bold. She remembered Mister examining the house when they first moved in. Mister had walked like the floor might fall out from under him. Eventually he owned every inch. This cat strutted, peering under and behind the furniture. There was no trace of fear or uncertainty in his demeanor. Once he had made a grand tour, he approached Lu as a sovereign would his favored servant. He sat squarely in front of her and stared into her eyes. She sat on the ottoman and waited for a name to come to her but there wasn’t anything popping into her head. She felt as if she were missing something. In a fit of impatience she blurted out, “Just tell me your name already!” She instantly felt foolish but this regal cat didn’t flinch. He stood, turned, and leaped onto the bookcase knocking off a single tome. He sat on the book casually. The book was an old college text from her philosophy class, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. She softly spoke the name Marcus but he only turned his ears slightly back. With a whisper she said Aurelius and he leapt light as a feather onto her lap. Lu was stunned. He looked at her smugly with an air of satisfaction. Lu felt a wave of peace. She was starting to feel better.
We are often our own worst critics. We criticize our work, appearance and even our actions. We are harsh judges of others but doubly hard on ourselves. At least she got the name right!