|Rowena's Page, Rowena Gets a Life.||Rowena Gets A Boyfriend, Part 7|
Rowena opened her mother's latest surprise gift to her and found it was an answering machine.
“This will make such a difference in your life,” her mother said.
I'm not a business, Mom, Rowena wanted to say. I don't get that many calls. But she kept her mouth shut.
“You can use it to screen your callers,” her mother said. “You don't have to talk to salespeople.”
“That would be something,” Rowena admitted. She also wouldn't have to talk to Neil, she realized, and maybe, just maybe, not to—
Rowena installed the machine. Then she went out for the day.
When she returned, she found five messages waiting for her. She reread the instructions, then played the messages back.
“Hello, Rowena,” said her mother's voice carefully. “This is your mother. I see you're using the answering machine I gave you. I just called to make sure it worked.” There was a long pause. “Are you there? Are you screening me? Rowena?” There was a longer pause. “Well, goodbye.”
“This is your mother again,” began the second message. “You haven't called me back, so I assume you're still out, unless your machine isn't working, though it sounds to me like it's working. I assume you would call your mother if you could. I know you're very busy, but still. Your sister always calls me back. I may not be that precious agent of hers, but she always calls me back.” There was a pause. “So, well, I called. Let me know if you got the message. I assume you're checking the machine, since it's new, so call me back if it's working.”
The next voice was different, though it didn't belong to any of Rowena's friends. “This is Eloise of Rorschach & Schmed.” Rowena winced. “I know this is your day off, but Mr. Schmed is making a special announcement tomorrow morning concerning a new project that will involve you. Please—” Eloise made the word “please” sound like a command—“come in an hour early tomorrow for your assignment. This project is very important and will involve overtime.”
Rowena groaned. After Eloise's call there was a long pause punctuated by clicking noises, as if someone had hung up. Then her mother's voice again.
“Honestly, these things are supposed to be a convenience. Rowena, are you all right? You're not too sick to come to the phone? You know how to call 911, don't you?” Rowena covered her eyes. Another voice, indistinct, came faintly over the wire. “Your father is telling me not to panic,” her mother said. “I am not panicking,” she told Rowena's father. “I am showing concern.” Rowena's father said something else, and her mother began bickering back at him. Rowena went over to the stove, picked up her teapot, took it to the sink and filled it. She set it back on the stove, turned up the heat. “Now, Wilder,” her mother said. Rowena ran some hot water, took a cup down and filled it. She turned the water off, set the cup aside, and started looking through her tea cupboard. Orange spice?
“Just wanted to tell you before I forgot,” her mother began. What had happened to the argument? Rowena had missed it. She smiled to herself; the word “miss” was relative. “You know that pink dress of yours?” Pink? “The one with the puffed sleeves with eyelet and the Peter Pan collar?”
Rowena put her head down. She remembered. Her mother had made her that dress. She had been all of about ten years old. Even then, she had hated it.
“Well, Marie Wilcox has a daughter named Chelsea who—” Rowena got up, went through her cupboards, found she was out of crackers, and got herself an apple instead. She turned the volume down so she couldn't quite hear every word. Her mother went on about Marie Wilcox and her daughter Chelsea—whoever they were—and then something about a kitten, and something else about a dreadful-sounding TV show—Rowena's water came to a boil. She dumped the water out of her cup, tossed in the teabag she'd selected, and poured water from the kettle over it. She took the tea back to her chair, sat down, and heard something about a pie, something about a hat, something about a chimney, something about somebody's cousin's arthritis, something about laundry soap . . .
The machine ran out of tape in the middle of something about a cement mixer. Rowena reached over and unplugged it, then fixed herself a second cup of tea.
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