Her Little White LieBy: Cj Howard
Mikey and I had been friends since school in Boston. He was a year older than me. He had seven brothers and sisters and came from a very Catholic, Irish family, all with varying shades of red hair. Mikey was what I'd call a strawberry blond but he hated that term. We lost touch when he went off to college for a few years so he could waste time and end up becoming a builder – like his father. It was the last thing his father ever wanted him to be.
“Son,” he used to say about his work, “the winters are cold and the summers are hot and when it rains it rains.” Loosely translated, what he meant was, no matter what the weather you'd be outdoors, working your butt off, walking the scaffolding on a skyscraper, and carrying loads on your back, when you could be inside an air-conditioned office. But Mikey didn't listen to his father.
Since he worked at that site, all I ever heard was Mikey complaining he got sunstroke and when it got to winter, he complained that his balls had frozen.
It was four years ago that Mikey walked back into my life. I just bumped into him outside a market in New York. I had no idea he'd moved here and he didn't know I was here either. The great thing was, we'd taken up being best friends again like we were never apart.
I grabbed my thick coat from the locker room and I noticed Miss Poole hovering around the staff entrance. She was cautioning Damion about his scuffed shoes but at the same time she seemed to be looking over the top of her glasses at me. Through the glass door of the staff entrance I saw Mikey. He was blowing into his hands and rubbing them together. All of a sudden I had a plan. I held open my purse for Security to check inside as usual, but Duke always just waved me through. I slipped out and before the door could close behind me, I called, “Mikey, oh Mikey!” He turned around, puzzled and I rushed to kiss him, full on the lips. I figured ten seconds ought to do it.
“What are you-” Mikey said when he could breathe again. My back was to the door but I knew Miss Poole would be watching.
“Say nothing but act like you know me terribly well,” I whispered to Mikey, still grabbing his cheeks between my hands.
“I do know you terribly well,” he mumbled through a squashed face.
“Shh, I'll explain later. You just put your hand on my butt and walk off, nice and slow. That's it, nice and slow. No! Don't turn around. Just nice – and – slow.”
Once we had left the block I pushed Mikey's hand away.
“Would you like to tell me what that was all about?” he grinned.
“Oh Mikey, I didn't mean to gross you out. I got the evil Miss Poole on my back. She was trying to get me to work Christmas Day.”
“So I told her I was busy and I was spending the day with my fiancé and his family.”
“I don't know. I don't know why I lied. Perhaps half of me wished it was true.”
We walked down into the subway. It was warm and loud. People pushed by us and we got separated once in a while. Mikey held my hand and guided me to our platform.
“Mom always told me that if you tell lies, they always catch up with you, Grace.” He had his hands wedged deep in his jacket pockets and was looking at me the way Miss Poole would do.
“It was out of my mouth before I could even think it through. I only have to pretend for one holiday and I promise never to lie again,” I said, looking along the platform for our train. I could hear the sound of it reverberating down the tunnel, the pull of air gushing through the dark and whipping at our faces as the train rumbled in and stopped. The doors hissed open and people spilled out, bumping our shoulders and us bumping back as we tried to get on. We packed ourselves inside the carriage.
“I'm surprised at you, Grace,” Mikey remarked as we managed to find standing room together.
He put his arm around my neck like I was one of the guys, and we clung on to the bar for the rest of the ride home.
“Grace. Gracie. Come over here a second.”
Alicia and Suzette were two of the chambermaids I used to work shifts with in the old days. Since I started on reception I only saw them once in a while. But they stood behind the arched wall leading to the elevators and tried to attract my attention. Under no circumstances were chambermaids permitted into the foyer so my girls were just poking their heads around the corner, trying not to be seen and speaking in a stage whisper.
I looked up from the reception desk and mouthed, 'What?' to them. Suzette opened her mouth to whisper again but the phone rang.
“Great West International. Grace speaking, how can I help you?” I looked over at Alicia and Suzette and tried to wave them away.