Rowena's Page, Rowena Gets a Life. Rowena Gets A Boyfriend, Part 2

Rowena Has A Busy Day

Fiction by S. D. Youngren



Rowena was pleased to discover, upon her arrival at work, that aside from the Liff Report, there was for once nothing in her In box.

She would be able to spend the entire day on the Liff Report, which she had been trying to get around to for over a week. Nobody had said anything to her about it—nobody but Eloise, anyway—but the Liff Report had been weighing on Rowena's mind. And today, finally . . .

Rowena slipped the Liff Report out of her In box and began to read it. She was two and a half sentences into the second paragraph when she was interrupted by Eloise.

“Where is he?” she demanded. Rowena looked up.

“Where is who?”

“Campbell! Where is he?”

Rowena looked around. “I have no idea,” she said.

“He's late,” Eloise said. “Again.

“Maybe Duncan's seen him.” Rowena said it to get rid of her. Eloise glared.

“Standing up for him?” she sneered. Rowena put the Liff Report flat on her desk.

“I'm not standing up for anybody, Eloise. I don't know what you're implying; all I want is to get through the Liff Report.” She gestured to it with her pen. Eloise snorted.

“And about time,” she said, and stomped off.

Rowena picked the report up again. This time she was almost to the fifth paragraph before she was interrupted.

“I'm late again. Has she noticed?”

“She has,” Rowena said without looking up.

“Oh, God. What am I going to do?”

“Either get quietly to work,” said Rowena, “or go beg forgiveness, or both.”

“Oh, God,” he moaned. “Did she say anything?”

“The usual. I wouldn't hang around here if I were you.”

“Rowena—”

She looked up at him. “Leslie, Eloise has already accused me of trying to shield you, which I can't do anyway. Why don't you go to your desk and try to look honest and hardworking, instead of hanging around here getting us both in trouble?”

“You stood up to Eloise?” he asked. “For me?”

“Leslie—”

“I was starting to think you didn't like me after all,” he said. “Rowena—”

Rowena stood up. “I am going to the Ladies' Room,” she said clearly. “You had better be gone by the time I get back.”

And she fled.

@>--->---          @>--->---          @>--->---

By the time she returned, the only sign of his presence was Marjorie's knowing snicker. Rowena sat down, loftily, and picked up the Liff Report.

“Here,” said Eloise, dumping a pile of papers on her desk. “Perhaps you would like to know we found Campbell.”

“Found?” Rowena asked. “You make it sound like he's hanged himself or something.”

“Not yet,” said Eloise, and marched off. Rowena picked up the papers she had left, hoping they contained nothing very time-consuming. Two memos from Mr. Schmed, four letters to file, and an Announcement from Mr. Rorschach himself—Mr. Rorschach who never came in, whom no one but of course Mr. Schmed had ever seen—and four things Eloise was supposed to have delivered elsewhere.

Rowena filed the letters and read the memos and the Announcement until Eloise was out of sight; it did not do to let Eloise see you correcting a mistake she had made. When Eloise was gone, she redirected the other papers—and then returned to find the Liff Report missing from her desk.

Rowena looked inside her desk.

She looked under her blotter, in her wastebasket, on the floor . . .

She looked and looked and looked for the report, and was finally reduced to asking Marjorie.

Marjorie shifted her gum to the left side of her jaw. “Leslie Campbell,” she said.

What?

Marjorie grinned at her. “He stole your report so you'd have to go talk to him,” she said. Rowena groaned.

“And you let him?”

Marjorie shifted her gum. “This is fun,” she said. “The soaps just aren't the same when you have to watch 'em at night.”

Rowena went to get her report back.

“C'mon, Leslie,” she said wearily.

“Rowena, give me a break.”

“Give you a break? I don't have time for this. I—”

“It's my name, isn't it?”

“What?”

“You won't go out with me because I have a girl's name.”

“That's got nothing to do with it.”

“I'm thinking of dropping my first name. How does ‘L. Herman Campbell’ sound to you? Dignified?”

“Leslie Herman Campbell, I won't go out with you because of what you did the one time I was dumb enough—”

“I don't remember—”

“Exactly. You were too drunk to remember throwing up all over—”

“Rowena, I've changed.”

“You don't remember picking a fight with—”

“I won't do that again.”

“And you don't remember certain other things you tried to do which I will not attempt to remind you of.”

“I wish you would.”

“Give me my report!”

“At least lunch. Okay? Just lunch. An innocent little lunch. What time do you go today?”

“One.”

“Damn.”

“Red Alert!” hissed Duncan. They looked to see Eloise bearing down on them. Rowena put her hand out, and Leslie snatched the Liff Report from his bottom drawer and shoved it at her. Rowena made a break for it, but was too late.

“Just what is going on around here?”

“Uh—we—Rowena just wanted my opinion on something in the Liff Report, so—”

“If Rowena needs anybody's help around here, it isn't yours,” Eloise said. “You don't seem to realize, young man, just how much trouble you're in.”

“Eloise—”

“Why Mr. Schmed keeps you on the payroll is a mystery to me.” She turned to Rowena. “Go back to work,” she said.

“Yes, Eloise,” Rowena said. As she left she heard Eloise calling Leslie “MIS-ter Campbell” in very chilling tones. She knew, somehow, that he would not be fired.

Rowena opened the Liff Report and found her place. This time she read almost three paragraphs before someone interrupted her.

“Wanna contribute? It's for a good cause.”

Rowena looked up. “What is it this time, Larry?”

“Eloise,” he said impressively, “is going on vacation.” He shook his collection box at her, grinning. “This is for her bon voyage party.”

“Really?” Rowena asked. “When is she going?”

Larry looked at the clock. “In exactly four months, one week, three days, four hours and—”

“Larry,” interrupted Rowena, “why are you taking a collection for a party four months in advance?”

Larry leaned forward over Rowena's desk. “Because it's Eloise's vacation!” he said. “A three-week vacation.” He held the box out to her. “For a very good cause,” he said.

Rowena dug some money out of her purse and gave it to him.

“Thanks,” Larry said. He leaned forward again and addressed her in confidential tones. “This is the greatest thing to happen here since October,” he said.

“What happened in October?”

My vacation.” He grinned again, picked up his collection, and went after Marjorie. Rowena returned to the Liff Report, interrupted only by the ringing of her telephone every couple of minutes until Marjorie called over to her.

“One o'clock, dummy,” she said.

Rowena went to lunch.

@>--->---          @>--->---          @>--->---

When she came back her In box was still otherwise empty. She had only eight pages to read—eight pages in three hours; just eight pages and then she could start on the actual work.

She felt hopeful.

Her phone rang.

“Rorschach and Schmed. May I help you?”

“Hello, Rowena; this is your mother.”

“Mom? What—”

“I've just had the most wonderful idea. I was wondering if you could come to dinner and bring your new boyfriend.”

“Sammy? Mother, I have gone out with Sammy exactly once.”

“Now, Rowena, you're not ashamed of us, are you?”

“Mom, look, I'm very—”

“Your sister is coming over. And I'm making enough for everybody.”

“Can we discuss this later? I'm very busy.”

“Such a way to talk to your mother. Don't worry about your precious job; I'll call him and invite him myself. I still have his number.”

“Mom, no.

“Rowena, he's a perfectly nice boy. I'm sure he won't mind.”

“Mother!”

“I'll let you go now. Goodbye, dear.”

And she hung up.

Rowena grabbed her purse, rifled through for her address book, then flipped through that for Sammy's number. She hoped she could get through to him before her mother did, or that he would not be home.

“What's this? A personal call?”

“This is an emergency, Sylvia.”

“The only emergency right now is Mr. Rorschach,” Sylvia said. “Everybody listen up.” Rowena began to dial. “Mr. Rorschach has called a special meeting on the top floor. Everyone is to attend. Now,” she added, glaring at Rowena.

“Sylvia—”

Sylvia dropped her hand onto the cradle of Rowena's phone, breaking her connection just as she punched in the last number. “Pronto,” Sylvia said. “Do not keep Mr. Rorschach waiting. He is going to explain his Announcement.”

Rowena could not remember what the Announcement had been about. Nothing interesting.

She gathered her notepad and pen, hoping Sammy was not at home. She tried, as she trooped to the elevator, to keep her mind on her work instead. Everyone around her was muttering, “So we're finally going to see him?” She pretended to herself that this was all very exciting.

Still, she was nearly the last person in the Conference Room, and had to take a seat right by the door. When she sat down, she found she could see nothing but the backs of her coworkers' heads. When Mr. Schmed stepped up and said a few words, she could barely hear him.

When Mr. Rorschach came in—the invisible, the mighty and the mysterious Mr. Rorschach—

When he came in she could not see him, and when he spoke she could not hear him. She heard only a sort of low, broken mumble, like a kind of white noise.

She strained. She craned. She tried everything short of standing up and calling attention to herself to see or hear him, but she could not.

All she heard, eventually, was Mr. Schmed saying, “Well, I see our workday is over. Thank you all very much, and have a pleasant evening.”

Rowena scrambled to her feet but everyone else was quicker, and she still saw nothing. And sitting by the door as she was, she had to be the first out.

@>--->---          @>--->---          @>--->---

“Wasn't he great?” Sylvia asked.

“I couldn't hear him very well from where I was,” said Rowena. Maybe she should call her mother instead of Sammy.

“Oh, too bad,” said Sylvia. “He was great.” Rowena picked up the Liff Report, weighed it in her hand. “C'mon,” said Sylvia. “It'll be waiting for you in the morning.”

“I was afraid you'd say that,” Rowena said, tossing it back into her In box.



_____________________________/


Next Story:
Rowena Goes To Dinner

Rowena Gets A Boyfriend, Part 3

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