"Why do you always dress like that?"
She gave him a bemused look, than glanced at her ensemble. Peasant skirt, flowing top, long fringed scarf. Somewhere between Frida and Isadora. Her long curly hair loosely framed her face. Summer was no time to adhere to a strict fashion regime. She smiled sweetly at him.
"Don't you like the way I dress?"
He stared across the restaurant, letting his gaze fall upon a tall blond in a short skirt and form fitting top at the next table. She had a look that inspired envy, not so much for her, but for the man who was sitting with her. A man who looked much like himself, short, balding, timid. He coveted the sense of power that emanated from that other man. Why couldn't she dress like that?
"It just seems so pretentious. Why can't you dress like that woman?"
He stared at the blond, not even bothering to hide his desire. She followed his gaze and smiled again, a hint of sadness appearing this time.
"Ah, I see. Younger. Sexier."
"I just want to make a good impression at the party on Friday. A lot of important people are going to be there. I need to be taken seriously by the others if I'm going to go anywhere within the company, and they're not going to do that if they see me with you, and you're dressed like an aging gypsy queen."
She took a sip of wine to hold her tongue and balm her hurt feelings. Complaints about the way she dressed from a man who attired himself like her grandfather, bow tie and vest always in place. Too many complaints about her appearance, her choices. Nothing seemed to please him anymore.
"You know I don't like pretending to be something I'm not. Do you really think my appearance will have any impact upon your place in the company?"
"I'm not asking you to be something you're not, I'm just asking you not to embarrass me, that's all."
She bit the inside of her mouth until she tasted blood, keeping the tears at bay.
"I didn't realize you found me embarrassing. I'm sorry."
He shrugged his shoulders, and muttered into his plate of pasta. Why couldn't she understand, he whined to himself? Why did she have to make such a big deal over a tiny request?
He arrived at her apartment two nights later. He gasped when she opened the door; she was wearing a tight, black, pencil skirt; a low cut silk blouse barely covered her breasts. Stiletto shoes encased her feet as black seamed stockings snaked their way up the back of her legs. Her makeup was expertly applied and she had her hair swept up. She exuded an air of supreme confidence with her new identity. She was completely out of his league.
"Wow," was all he managed to get out.
"Wow indeed," she replied, as she breezed past him towards the car.
They drove to the party; he felt like the luckiest man in the world. He walked in with her on his arm and thought himself invincible. Other men would finally notice him, would finally pay him the respect he deserved with this regal beauty at his side. Jenkins, one of the Senior VPs, observed them as they entered, excused himself from the conversation he was having, and walked towards them. Now was his chance to make a good impression.
"Michael Jenkins, Senior Vice President." He offered his hand to him but never took his eyes off her, assessing her from head to toe.
"Mr. Jenkins, I'm Thomas Edwards from the accounting department, and this is my friend, Veronica Mitchell."
Jenkins took her hand. "Just a friend?"
She looked straight into Jenkins' eyes, smiling seductively at him.
"Yes, just a friend."
Jenkins slid his arm around her waist and pulled her closer to him.
"You looked parched. Allow me to get you a drink."
Jenkins threw a wink at Edwards.
"Thanks old man, I'll take it from here."
Edwards stood there, alone, a comical look on his face, as he watched the two of them disappear together, his place in the pack painfully established.