As you stand outside the front door, waiting for someone to open it, you're reminded of what a preposterous idea it is to have a themed party in the dead of summer. Furthermore, a victorian costume party where dressing up is an enforced requirement. Your velvet, floor-length, long sleeve dress would be great protection from any brisk winds, but in the dry night heat, it's sweltering and positively miserable. This party better not be as miserable as I feel right now, you think to yourself. You don't have high hopes for the outcome, though. No one even has the decency to let you into the party, so you've been left to sweat out on the front doorstep. Why won't anyone answer? Don't they know how hot it is outside? This house better have air conditioning, you think.

You look up at the creaky old house, taking in the building at large. With its 18th century Victorian feel, the thought of the house having a working air conditioning system is laughable. The longer you stand on the doorstep, the hotter it seems to get. You can feel the heat rising in your face and the sweat building up under your dress. You desperately try to fan your face with your hand, but the big, unwieldy bell sleeves of your dress make it impossible to generate any airflow. Still, you wonder how long it could possibly take for someone to answer the door. The possibility crosses your mind that maybe no one inside the house even heard the doorbell. You ring it again and knock with the brass knocker just to be on the safe side.

You’re thinking to yourself how odd it is for such an ancient house to have a working doorbell when the door finally opens.

If you thought the evening couldn’t get worse than wearing velvet in the heat of summer, you were dead wrong.

The man who opens the door has a face you know all too well, and he's wearing a ridiculous knight's get-up, complete with a plastic shield and one of those horse toys. He starts to welcome you, not registering who you are, but his face turns to disgust when he sees your face.

"Welcome to- oh it's you." Your evil ex and business arch-nemesis quickly drops eye contact, instead opting to stare at your forehead. "Come in. You're late," he continues gruffly. His eyes drop abruptly to the floor, and he shuffles away without another word. You scoff. He doesn't even bother to hold the door open for a lady.

"Fashionably late, thank you very much!" you call after him. He doesn't acknowledge the fact that you spoke but instead disappears around the corner. Why do I even bother? He's not my responsibility, you think. Not anymore, anyways. You don't even know why you let him get to you.

He noticed you were late. It wasn't just that, though. It was the fact that he noticed and commented on it. You knew you were late. He didn't have to rub it in your face. And he flat out ignored your well thought and perfectly formulated excuse. Victorian women in books were always talking about being fashionably late, right?

But no, your devil ex-boyfriend has to burst your bubble and rudely remind you that you're just at another high-class business party, where being late is frowned upon and frankly unacceptable.

With a sigh, you hike up your heavy skirt to step into the house. The front foyer is empty, so you follow the sounds of music and conversation through several empty but ornately furnished rooms to the back of the house.

The sight before your eyes is certainly an unusual one. You've attended countless business gatherings, as head of cybersecurity at one of the region's biggest tech companies. Not to mention, you're one of the only women in such a position of power in your company, so your presence at these 'relationship-building events' is pretty much mandatory.

You spot your monster of an ex standing by the punch bowl with his stupid knight costume. Relationship building? Yeah right. More like relationship ending.

Every encounter you've had with him since your breakup has led to some sort of falling out between companies. What a coincidence, you always think. It's not like he has deep connections with virtually every company in the region!

You secretly hope you don't have to talk to him again tonight. As long as he doesn't approach you, you won't approach him. The ridiculous dress up aspect of the night was a new concept, and would probably be an easy spark of conflict between you two.

He's just trying to ruin your career. You can just see it on his smug little face every time he smirks at you. You stare at that knight, who's now talking up a very well known, wealthy business investor. You feel yourself getting worked up. Your face fills up with heat, but this time it's not from your thick dress or the hot, dry air.

You start to get the urge to go up to that arrogant face and slap it. You want to march up and teach that man a lesson about respect. The respect he always gets but you never do. Because you're a woman in the business industry and no one expects you to be anything more than a secretary. He's a knight in shining armor, and you're just a delicate princess who wears ridiculous dresses with bell sleeves.

Don't get involved, you tell yourself. Nothing good would come out of the encounter. You can stand to ignore your ex for just one evening. You're in control of your own actions, not his. But something about him just ticks you off. You can't leave it alone. You always have to have the last word.

You tell yourself that this isn't the reason you're here. You're here to improve relations for your company, to do your job and prove your worth to your boss. You're not here to pick fights with your ex-boyfriend. Your boss already disapproves of the fact that you dated someone so high up in the industry. In fact, while you two were dating, your boss threatened to demote you unless you kept your relationship under wraps and swore it wouldn't affect your job performance. He was one of the reasons you two broke up. So yes, you needed to prove to him that you could last one evening without a bad confrontation.

It was a mistake to see someone from the same industry that you were in. If and when you two broke up, it would cause massive drama between the companies. Drama your company couldn't afford. Your relationship was doomed to fail from the start.

You take a deep breath, inhaling the smell of alcohol and hot air. You were right about there being no air conditioning. Your anger starts to dissipate. You compose yourself, smoothing out any wrinkles in your dress. You walk to the table where they're serving drinks. At parties like these, you always feel more comfortable talking business with something in your hand. That way, you know you're not gesturing too much when you talk. You get a Shirley temple, your favorite non-alcoholic drink. While you take comfort in the glass in your hand, you don't trust yourself with booze. Too many suppressed feelings could be revealed when you add yourself and the consumption of alcohol.

With a drink in hand, you mill around the room. Striking up conversations has never been hard for you.

You make small talk about the party, the venue, the costumes. Others respond to your comments. You start to think that maybe the themed party concept isn't the worst idea to come to the minds of corporate businessmen.

As the representative from the computer software company excuses herself to get a bit to eat, you look around the room again. Your cheeks are tight from smiling, but you're not complaining. You feel the unmistakable joy you always get from talking business, and you're reminded of why you love the industry.

Your eyes scan the room for someone else to strike up a conversation with. You look past the corner of the room but suddenly turn back. Your enemy is talking to the CEO of the region's biggest paper supplier. No doubt severing ties for my company, you automatically think.

Oh no, he doesn't dare. You start seeing red. You're about to march up to those two men and speak your mind. The anger builds up inside you, and you feel like you're about to explode. But you feel a tap on your shoulder, one that momentarily puts your explosion on hold.

You turn around and feel your eyes soften, your face relaxes.

"About to go yell at some powerful people, embarrass yourself, and possibly ruin our golden reputation single-handedly?" You can tell your best friend is making fun of you, but you mildly offended nonetheless.

"You know me too well," you say.

Your friend shrugs off the compliment and gestures to her outfit. "What do you think?" she asks. You stare into the eyes of your best friend of 7 years, the woman who's been beside you throughout your whole career. The lady who stood by you when all of management was against you.

"Darcy, you look... like a girl who doesn't need a man," you say. You both laugh. With your best friend and business partner at your side, you allow yourself to forget about that infuriating knight. Instead, you enjoy a nice night of business talk, crazy costumes, and lots of laughs. A night without confrontation, a night without knights.

June 25, 2020 17:18

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