The Reluctant Miss Pink

 
A story inspired by Erin's Hired Girl...

Reluctant Miss Pink
The Reluctant Miss Pink

by Donna Lamb

 
“Miss Pink? Miss Pink?” my boss called from the inner office.

I pushed wads of pale curls away from my face and even pulled a few out of my mouth. Why did women have to have so much hair, anyway? I stepped to the open doorway and looked at him inquiringly. “Yes, sir?” I asked.

Randall Rushmore Rand the Fourth looked vaguely around his desk and made patting motions amid the clutter. “Miss Pink, have you seen my cellphone? I had it just a few minutes ago before I left to go to the men’s room. I need it to call my grandfather to tell him I can’t make it to our lunch today.”

I stepped to his desk, four-inch heels sinking into the specially woven, deep pile, blond alpaca carpet and retrieved his phone from the decorative glass vase where it had been clearly visible amid the stems of the multi-hued silk tulips.

“Thank you, Miss Pink,” he said, staring at the phone after I put it into his hand.

“Gramps is pound-twenty-two,” I said helpfully.

“Yes,” he agreed. “Miss Pink, I remember that I can’t make it to luncheon with him today, but I can’t remember why not.” R-Cubed-and-Quartered, as he was known in the lower echelons of the company, waved the phone vaguely about while running his other hand through his own dark brown curls. “Not a lot of point in calling Gramps until I remember that information.” He looked at me hopefully.

I tapped my teeth, noting as I did so that the blood-red polish on the nail had several chips out of it. I sucked on the tip of my finger, thinking hard. R^3/4 watched me with rapt attention, hope evident on his tanned, exceedingly regular features. What my boss wanted was an excuse not to have to sit listening to the company Executive Vice President ramble on about his golf scores, cholesterol count and mistresses’ dry-cleaning bills for an hour-and-a-half-plus in the middle of a gorgeous June day.

“Teeth-cleaning,” I suggested.

He shook his head, “I used that one two weeks ago Thursday.”

“Jury duty?” I said, and we both chuckled. The last time an executive with the Rushmore Corporation had sat in a jury pool had been during the Johnson administration—Andrew, not Lyndon.

Medical excuses were best, especially if they sounded vaguely disgusting but perhaps trivial. “Ingrown toenail removal. If he asks questions, you can describe the pus. That ought to put him off wanting to have lunch with you.”

He grinned, showing me his dimples which were rumored to have been surgically enhanced. “Excellent, Miss Pink. I knew I could count on you. I’ll be out of the office for the rest of the day; this is just too good of an excuse not to use fully.” He paused. “Do you think I could take tomorrow off, too?”

I made a moue with lips the same color as the nails I was going to have to repaint. “Probably best would be if you limped in just in time to go to the lunch meeting with your mother’s charity auction people.”

He grinned again, his teeth so white he must have really had a teeth-cleaning sometime recently. “‘Limp in,' that’s good,” he said. “What about you, Miss Pink? You deserve some time off for being so reliable and quick-witted. You have the rest of the day for yourself, and don’t need to come in until ten a.m. tomorrow.”

I nodded. “Thank you, sir. I do have some errands to run and a private lunch to attend. This will give me more time.” Enough for a trip to the salon so I don’t have to repair chipped nails myself, I decided.

“Very good, Miss Pink,” he said, still beaming at me. “I’ll see you after ten, tomorrow.”

* * *

Less than half an hour later, I settled into one of the deeply cushioned lounges at the Executive Sweet Salon. “Let’s do those highlights we’ve been talking about, Anna,” I told the stylist. “And Marguerite can work on fingers and toes as soon as you get far enough along.”

“You have meeting? Lunch?” Anna’s English is good for pronunciation, but she leaves out grammar particles all the time.

“Yes, at one p.m., so plenty of time.”

“Ah. Good.” She began work on my hair. “This meeting is your boyfriend, yes?”

I smiled but didn’t answer. She cackled in her enjoyment.

* * *

I got to the restaurant a few minutes early despite my intent to make Oggie Bunn wait for me this time. I’m compulsive that way and people who know me can take advantage of my over-promptness. Oggie, of course, was one of those people and I knew he would be at least ten minutes late. I could have done more window shopping on my way, but it’s just not in my nature to dawdle.

Ogden Willem Bunn and I went back to high school together, and it was because of him that I was dressed in a pencil-thin business skirt and heels, hair newly frosted and nails done in a non-ironic color called Billionaire Red. Okay, maybe it was a teensy bit ironic, the color, but Ogden wasn’t a billionaire, even if his father was. Everyone wanted me to wear more pink, because it was my name but I resisted.

The waiter at Le Jardin du Temps had our reservation and seated me near the riotous bank of colorful flowers, but out of the sun underneath the copper-colored awning. I examined the menu, looking to see if they had fresh Maine lobster today so I could stick Oggie with a bill for a $200 lunch. No luck but I picked out the Top and Tails, sirloin and langostino, as my target along with a simple green salad.

I turned in some surprise as a cocktail waiter appeared holding a fizzy pink drink in one of those birdbath shaped glasses. “I didn’t order this,” I said as he put it down in front of me.

“Mr. Bunn called and ordered for you: kale soup, Top’n’Tails, green salad with raspberry vinaigrette? He’s going to be half an hour late and he knows you have a lunch hour to keep to.”

I hated that Oggie could predict me so well but I simply nodded and smiled at the servers, the table waiter arriving with the soup at about that time, too. “Thank you, gentlemen,” I said. I had plenty of time for lunch today and it comforted me a little that Oggie did not know that tidbit.

I sipped the drink. It appeared to be pink grapefruit Italian soda with something alcoholic and something else a bit spicy. Quite good, refreshing but with a bite. I’d have to find out what it was called so I could order it myself—even if it violated my rule about deliberate pinkness.

I didn’t finish the soup but the entrée had just arrived when Oggie rushed in, kissed me on the ear and plumped down across from me. Oggie looks like that old dancer/actor guy, Donald O’Connor, but with less hair and a bit of a soft middle.

“You’re looking good, Pinkie,” he said to me.

I made a face at the nickname and retaliated. “You look to be your usual self, Bunny.”

He laughed, clearly pleased with my counterattack. I suppressed a giggle; I hate it when I giggle. When you’re as rich as Oggie Bunn, or Randall Rand for that matter, you like as much authenticity in your associations as you can get if you have a speck of self-respect not drowned in sycophancy.

His drink arrived, something amber in an old-fashioned glass. He held it up toward me and I lifted my pink drink to take a sip as an unspoken toast to our friendship.

And the bet, of course.

He grinned at me as his prime rib sandwich arrived. “You’ve won, of course, deadline isn’t till the end of next week but you’re already Randy’s executive assistant and he still doesn’t know who you really are.”

I put down my fork and looked at him sternly. “I’m Alex Pink, his trusted confidant and assistant.”

“Alexander Pink,” said Oggie, chuckling.

I shrugged.
“I knew you could do it,” said Oggie which caused me to frown.

“Then why did you bet against me?”

“I didn’t!” He protested. “I knew that you could do it, get hired as a woman and get promoted to office manager or executive assistant within eighteen months and you did it!”

I stared at him. He was trying to renege on the bet by judoing our positions. “You’re full of it!” I said. “Why would I take the bet and work as hard as I have so you could win?”

He smiled slyly. “Because you are you and you really wanted to do this and I had to trick you into it by pretending to bet against you.”

I took a delicate bite of sea-going crawdad and chewed it over. He slathered his French roll with horseradish then dipped a corner of the re-assembled sandwich into the au jus. Had he manipulated me into the bet? The son-of-a-bitch probably had.

I swallowed and glared at him. “You are still going to pay up, you weasel.”

He nodded. “Of course, I deposited $50,000 in your account this morning. Besides the allowance I’ve been giving you for clothes, cosmetics and medical expenses which actually came to more! And you got your salary! How much is Rand paying you?”

“Fifty-seven plus profit sharing and bonus,” I said. More than I had made in any other job.

“The ratfink!” Oggie said, indignant. “You’re worth seventy kay, at least!”

“Well,” I said, pleased that Oggie thought so but a little non-plussed that the bet really was over and I didn’t have to pluck my eyebrows, wear pantyhose or answer to Miss Pink anymore. I could quit my job…. And?

“New bet,” said Oggie.

I stared at my still nearly full plate. I seemed to have lost my appetite. “What?” I asked. I should have asked, “Why?” Why did I sense something that felt like a looming disappointment?

“New bet,” Oggie repeated. “I bet you can’t get Randy Rand to propose marriage.”

“What!?” I didn’t raise my voice but it still came out as a treble yelp. I knew I had sounded like a chihuahua and I clicked my teeth together in annoyance.

“Get him to propose and offer you an engagement ring within… How long do you think it will take you?”

I took another sip of sparkly pink cocktail, calculating. “Do I have to tell him who I really am?”

He made a thoughtful shape with his mouth. “Not unless you accept the engagement, I’d say. Huh? Wouldn’t be right to agree to marry him, keeping that a secret. Still, if you told him, you could still get married—it’s legal now, even if you never had surgery.”

Surgery scared me but I nodded. Could I do it? Maybe. Randy was sweet and I knew he liked me and I was rapidly becoming indispensable to him. In fact, that would be my strategy, to begin with at least. Just be really really good at my job for starters. And hey, this way I could keep my career.

“Three years?” I hazarded a guess.

Oggie smiled. “You’ll have to change your image slightly. Right now, you project business. You need to go for….romance!” He grinned. “So let’s give you seven; Randy’s a little thick and slow about relationships. And the payoff is… a million? With a honeymoon in the Greek Islands as bonus if you actually marry him.”

I blinked. “If I married him, I wouldn’t need your million or your free honeymoon,” I pointed out.

“Okay,” said Oggie. “A million for getting the proposal and a vacation in the Mediterranean with or without him. Deal?”

“Deal,” I agreed. We linked pinkies over the table. Suddenly I had to suppress a squeal of delight. And why not? I was going to win a million dollars!

He picked up his drink, probably bourbon and branch, and I picked up mine. Before we drank, I asked him, “What is this called?” waving the glass to show what I meant.

“Pink Happiness,” said Oggie, grinning. “And here’s to yours, Miss Pink.”



Originally posted to the Hatbox 2017-08-30



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