The sun shone from a silver-paneled window, bathing the room in light. I squinted, and then slammed the patterned curtains, rolling my eyes. I was bored. I was hot. I was exhausted.
Abruptly, my phone vibrated, humming familiar tunes of The Longest Road by Morgan Page.
I purred along with the tune and glanced at the caller. My boss, the chief doctor. I sat up straight, cleared my throat, and answered the call frantically, balancing a box of glazed doughnuts and putting the phone to my ear.
"Um, yes, good afternoon, Dr. Stall."
Dr. Stall liked getting straight to the point. Until this day, I couldn't make my mind if it was a good thing or a bad one.
"I need you to make a speech in front of the UN."
I stammered. Obviously, I heard wrong.
"The UN. United Nations. You know that, don't you?" Her impatient voice clouded my thoughts.
I dropped the box of doughnuts.
Here I was, sunbathing (if you would call that), snacking on glazed doughnuts, and aimlessly flicking through Netflix when suddenly, I was to deliver a speech at the UN.
"Dr. Stall, are you serious?"
"But, but, what am I gonna talk about? Why me?"
I heard her sigh irritably. "Cleo Harrison, you're an expert on child abuse. You are a psychologist, the best one on our team. Our hospital was asked to choose the best psychologist to give a speech in front of millions to raise awareness."
I stuttered, my heart pounding in my chest.
Dr. Stall clicked her tongue, "I have to go deal with the paperwork. I'll send you a copy of the speech I expect you to deliver. You have to make your own speech. Check your inbox."
And with that, she declined the call and let me stare into space, gaping, with doughnuts scattered across the floor.
"Allie, you have to come here. Right now."
My friend was clearly confused. "I'm in the office right now. My boss is literally stepping on my toes right now. I might have made a mistake or two in the document."
"Oof, good luck with that. But I need you here like right now."
"Geez! Gimme thirty minutes, I'll be there. What happened?"
Forty minutes later, a Ford pulled up on my driveway. Allie tossed her car keys onto the table and jumped onto the couch. She stared at me.
I paced around the living room, scribbling hasty notes into a notepad, and muttering excerpts from my email.
"What's the deal with you? Like why'd you call me for? My boss was annoyed."
"Well, I'm sorry. But nevermind that. I'm supposed to deliver a speech in front of millions! You know how Dr. Stall is like." I rolled my eyes.
She shrunk back into her seat, eyes wide open. "Whoa. Where?"
"Seriously? Like, the United Nations? Oh my god, like I totally get why you dropped the doughnuts."
I glared at Allie. "It's not funny. What if I mess up? She just sent me the topic I'm supposed to do. It's child abuse. Like, I'm an introvert, Allie. I can't do this!"
Allie sighed and picked a couple of doughnuts from the floor. "Cleo, don't worry. I bet you'll ace that speech."
"Or, you could probably like say a couple of wrong words, and they'll kick you out." she joked.
I tossed a pillow at her. "Don't!" I wailed.
"When are you gonna give that speech anyway?"
~~~ A day before the speech ~~
The yellow digital clock on my bed read two-fifty in the morning. About a dozen books were unfurled across my desk. I paused and glanced at my table. A packet of multi-colored highlighters, seven books, a MacBook, and lots of sticky notes plastered everywhere.
I sighed, and then switched the study light, and mumbled the speech I had created.
A hasty tune echoed from my phone. Dr. Stall. A video call.
Gosh. A video call at two-fifty?
I smoothened my hair down, lifted the phone up so she wouldn't see the llama pajamas I had underneath, and answered it quickly.
"What took you so long, Cleo? Anyway, I've got no time. I've scheduled a make-up artist to arrive tomorrow afternoon around two pm. Remember, the speech is at four, so be there at three. Get formally dressed. Have you memorized your speech?"
I swallowed and continued to smile at the camera. Dr. Stall had dark, black circles around her eyes, and magenta pink lipstick. Her hair was sprawled into a neat bun, and she was still wearing a doctor tag even though it was two-fifty.
"Um, partly." I gulped.
"What do you mean partly?" she spat.
Her eyebrows creased into a frown as her mouth twisted into an upside-down "U" shape.
"Not fully," I confessed.
She folded her arms and raised a bushy eyebrow at me. "You'd better memorize it by tomorrow."
"No but's. Memorize it."
She declined the call, and I cursed her fluently under my breath fervently wishing I wasn't the best psychologist in the hospital.
~~~The big day~~~
I paced around the room frantically, chanting my speech out loud, and stalked around still in my pajamas. It was one fifty. I quickly hopped in the shower and then chose a tight black skirt, a white blouse, and a plain, formal tie.
The doorbell echoed into the room. I hurried to answer it. A group of make-up artists trooped into the room. They worked on me, applying tons of blush and eyeshadow, as I winced and my heart pounded faster.
My phone rang again, and I hurried to answer it. Allie.
"Hey listen, Cleo. I took the afternoon off so I could watch your speech!" she exclaimed into the phone.
I groaned inwardly. "Ugh, no! I get more nervous with you watching!" I wailed.
She giggled. "You'll do fine, I promise."
The makeup artist styled my hair into a modern bun, and leaned over and hissed, "Be quiet, miss, or I can't do your bun."
I was seated backstage nervously repeating tongue-twisters, and clutching a stack of stringed papers. A thin-lipped man with squared shoulders fixed a mic onto me, and we did a couple of rehearsals. I tripped on my black heels twice, stuttered seven times, forgot what to say over like twenty times, and mumbled the wrong thing five times.
Dr. Stall clicked her lips, furiously. "We'll see how you do, Cleo Harrison."
I nodded anxiously and practically ran backstage.
Two hours had passed, and it was nearly showtime. I fidgeted in my heels and constantly shuffled my papers.
"....we now invite, Dr. Cleo Harrison, a psychologist to spread awareness about child abuse."
I felt dizzy with nervousness, as I walked up the stage and clapped my eyes on the millions of people around me. Five skilled photographers surrounded me, focusing their cameras on me, and constantly snapping photos. I felt like asking them to shut up, but I couldn't. I was under the eyes of millions of people. Millions.
I stammered as the director look expectantly at me, waiting for me to say something.
I inched forward, and placed my speaker notes carefully on the mic, wasting my time to test it productively. I pretended to tuck my hair around my ears and adjust the glasses already perching perfectly on my nose. I cleared my throat, and began with a shaky voice, "Uh, hello."
I had forgotten what to say. "Uh, hello." was definitely not a formal way of starting a speech.
I swallowed and quickly glanced at my notes. Dr. Stall glared at me and seethed through her teeth. I shuffled anxiously through my notes, and then looked at the audience again.
"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Um, my name is - is, Doctor Cleo Harrin, I mean - I mean Harrison, and I'm here to give a speech about child a-abuse." I stammered into the mic.
Suddenly, a wave of nausea crept through me. Why should I do this? It wasn't my choice to speak in front of millions of people? I'm getting stressed for no reason.
Bravely, I inhaled, trying not to sob, because my speech was probably already a disaster, and I walked away quickly from the stage.
"I'm sorry. I can't do this." I burst into tears, as I sniffled away from the stage, my heart still pounding, still unable to believe that I just said that in front of millions of people. I was probably on television, live on networks, and everyone was watching me, and I had just burst into tears.
I locked myself in a stall, and buried my face into my hands, sobbing into a heap, feeling like a disaster.