|Rowena's Page, Rowena Gets Married.||Book 8, Part 12|
Rowena had not been at her desk for more than two minutes when Sara banged a fist onto her memo. “Rowena!” Sara yelled.
“Sara,” Rowena said, “I'm right here. You don't have to shout.”
“Shows what you know. You haven't heard yet.”
Rowena took a deep breath and pushed herself back in her chair. “Something tells me I'm about to,” she said.
“Boris. On the Internet.”
Rowena waited. So far this was hardly news. “So?”
“On a Web site.”
“So?” said Rowena again. She glanced at her watch.
Sara struggled for a moment to explain, then yanked a folded paper from her purse and slapped it down on Rowena's desk. “Can you believe this bimbo?” she demanded.
The paper was not only folded several times, but it was also a bit wadded as well. Rowena smoothed it out and began unfolding. “What am I supposed to do with that?” Sara yelled.
“Sara,” Rowena began, patiently. And then she stopped.
She was holding a picture of her sister, printed from Maralynne's naughty GlamCam site.
“I come into the room and she's on his computer,” Sara said. “He was just sitting there staring. I tried speaking to him but he just sat there staring.” Rowena was staring too. She tried to say something but changed her mind. “What am I going to do?” Sara asked. “You know how he is about computers. How am I gonna compete?” She waited for an answer, but only allowed Rowena a fraction of a second to come up with one; not nearly long enough. “And besides, just look at her. If that's what he likes, I'm sunk.”
Rowena took a breath. “Well, sometimes a guy will—”
“I mean, look at her! She isn't even real! I mean, I could handle it if he were looking at something that resembled a real girl—well, maybe I could—but that! What am I going to do?”
“What kind of guy is he? What kind of girl is that?”
“And what kind of friend are you? Don't you have any advice?”
“Maybe, if you'll keep quiet a minute. And anyway, I'm your coworker, not your best friend or—”
“Whatever you are. Tell me what to do.”
Rowena took another deep breath and let it out. “Well, have you discussed this with him?”
“If you can call it discussing.”
Rowena waited, then asked, “What did he say?”
“He said I should dress like that. Then I reminded him of a very similar outfit I'd worn for him a week or so ago, and he said, ‘Really?’ Without taking his eyes from the screen. Rowena, he's hopeless.”
“Sara, in the first place, you knew he was . . . not very attentive. You—”
“What, you're blaming me now? You're—”
“Sara. Listen. There's only so much—”
“Rowena!” Sara yelled. “You have to help me! You have to do something about Boris! You have to do something about . . . that!” And she jabbed a finger, dramatically, at the picture of Rowena's sister.
Rowena managed somehow to get through the day without admitting to Sara that Maralynne was her sister, but it wasn't always easy. “You know,” Sara said at one point, “that little slut of his looks kind of familiar.”
“Oh?” asked Rowena, as causally as she could. Maralynne had come once or twice to Rorschach & Schmed; she'd been by quite recently, in fact. Rowena tried to remember whether Sara had seen her.
“Yeah, I think she does. She's not, like, an actress or something, is she?”
“I wouldn't think so,” Rowena said, remembering her sister's attempts at acting.
“I know I've seen her before. I just can't place her.”
“Maybe it'll come to you,” Rowena said, hoping fervently that it would not.
“So you don't know who she is either?”
“Who who is?” asked Marjorie, returning to her desk next door.
“Nobody!” said Sara. She turned back to Rowena. “Well?”
“This sort of thing,” Rowena said, “is not really my specialty.”
“Lucky you,” Sara said. She stared off into space, looking fidgety. “I'm almost sure I've seen her somewhere,” she said.
“Look, Sara, I've got—”
“Seen who?” said Marjorie.
“Yeah,” said Berna, approaching.
“Yeah,” said Leslie Campbell, from the other direction. “What's up?”
“Nothing,” Sara said.
“Aw, c'mon,” said Leslie.
Sara ignored him. “You have to help me,” she told Rowena. “What am I supposed to do?”
“First, stop interrupting me continually so I can get some work done and maybe think about your problem once in a while. Second, remember that you're real and actually there for Boris and that the . . . bimbo isn't.”
“Bimbo?” said Leslie.
“Berna,” Rowena said, “get him out of here.”
Berna seized Leslie and began frog-marching him away, despite some rather loud protests on Leslie's part. “You'll fill me in later, right, Rowena?” Berna called back.
“You mean remind Boris I'm real and she's not,” Sara said. She shook her head. “Big deal. He'll be so impressed.”
And Rowena didn't know what to say to that.
“There is no way,” Rowena told Sammy, “that I can tell Maralynne about this.”
“I'm sure she'd take it as a compliment,” Sammy said.
“That's one of the reasons.” Rowena took a sip of tea. “Plus the fact she'd be likely to try to do something about it . . . and I don't mean something to help Sara.” She gave a small shudder. “But just imagine,” she said.
“I'm trying not to.”
“What am I going to do?” Rowena asked. “What if she finds out it's my sister? What if—”
“Rowena, this is not really your problem. It's Sara's problem. And all she has to do to solve it is face facts.”
“And rethink this so-called relationship with Boris.”
“I wasn't going to mention that,” Sammy said.
Rowena sighed. How did she get herself sucked into these things? Sammy reached over and patted her hand.
“Sara will be fine,” he said, “and your sister will be fine, and . . . Boris will be Boris.”
He closed his hand over hers. “You will be lovable,” he told her, “as always.” And he raised her hand and kissed it.
What Rowena really hoped as she drove to work the next day was that the whole thing had already blown over; that Boris had moved on to some other interest or that Sara had decided to calm down. But she knew before she even left the parking lot that she had not been so lucky.
“Rowena!” Sara yelled, running up to her.
“Sara, you haven't been waiting for me, have you?”
“You said you didn't want me bothering you so much at work,” Sara said.
Rowena stopped walking. “I consider this to be bothering me at work,” she said.
“In the parking lot? Maybe Leslie Campbell thinks this is work.” Sara gave her a disdainful look. At least, Rowena reflected, Sara didn't have her home phone number, or any other private contact information for her. “Anyway,” Sara went on, “Boris was up all night with that stupid hussy, or a couple of hours anyway, watching these videos of her and reading this stupid blog or whatever . . .”
“She has a blog?” Rowena asked, caught off guard. She bit her lip, waiting for Sara to ask why this would surprise her so much, but Sara didn't seem to notice.
“Yeah, just in case you care what she ‘thinks,’ and I use the term loosely. Actually, what she mainly thinks is that she's God's gift to men, and I don't see anyone disputing it with her.”
“I imagine no one who would do that bothers to read her blog.”
“Really. Actually, I'm tempted to go on myself and tell her to leave my boyfriend alone, but she'd probably get off on that.”
They reached the front door. Sara held it open and stood back to let Rowena pass. “So what do I do?”
“Well . . .” Rowena considered. She considered her sister and Boris—what she knew of him—and she considered Sara and what she was likely to put up with or resort to.
Too much, in both cases,
“If I could just get my hands on her,” Sara muttered darkly. “You know, I could swear I've seen her before.”
“She's a type,” Rowena found herself saying, in what she hoped was a conciliatory manner.
Sara snorted. “A type, all right. I know what type, too. Come on, Rowena; think of something.”
“I'm trying,” Rowena said. Her desk came into view, and Rowena made her way thankfully towards it; there were times her work seemed a respite, and this was one of them. “I'll let you know,” she told Sara, who opened her mouth to protest but closed it again when Eloise strode towards them.
There were times when Rowena was thankful for Eloise as well.
But Rowena's gratitude didn't last long. Just before lunch—and after several further interruptions by Sara—she picked up a stack of papers left her by Eloise and found, towards the bottom, an envelope addressed to Boris.
It looked important. Of course.
She sat a while, the envelope in her hand. She couldn't give it back to Eloise; Eloise went even crazier than usual when she was forced to notice a mistake she had made. Rowena closed her eyes. Things did get misdirected from time to time, but she had never had anything intended for Boris turn up in her In box before. And hadn't Sara been by just a few minutes ago? It seemed very suspicious, but Sara or no, what if the envelope was legitimate? It would have to be delivered, and not by Eloise; somehow, this envelope was going to have to find its way to Boris without coming to Eloise's attention. Molly happened to be out sick, and Rowena knew what would happen if she gave it to just about anyone else to deliver, or, in some cases, if she tried to. Especially if Sara found out. Rowena took a deep breath. She sat quietly for two or three seconds before opening her eyes.
She might as well get it over with.
She took another deep breath, got up, and headed for Boris' office.
She closed her eyes again at Boris' formidably-shut door—of course Boris had not only an office but an office with a door—for just a moment before looking about for Eloise and, not seeing her, knocking.
And then she waited.
She was just about to knock again when Boris said, “Yeah?”
“It's Rowena,” said Rowena, though she had no idea whether Boris knew who she was or even that she existed at all. “I have something for you.”
Rowena turned the envelope doubtfully in her hands. “It's in an envelope,” she said. “Sealed.”
Another pause, though not quite so long as the first. “Come in,” said Boris.
Rowena opened the door, started to step forward. And then stopped.
She had never seen Boris' lair before.
She had never seen anything like this before.
At first it was hard to make any sense out of it at all. Grey-boxed machinery and tangles and tangles of colorful wire. An unstable stack of pizza boxes and a litter of soft-drink cans. A bookcase on which leaned and jutted a collection of what Rowena assumed to be computer texts, seemingly caught, at first glance, in the act of slipping to the floor. Cartoons on the walls, all of which seemed to involve computers.
And there was Boris.
“Yeah?” said Boris again. Rowena came forward, rather stiffly, she thought, and held out the envelope. Boris took it, glanced at it, then ripped it open. He flipped through the contents and snorted.
“Loada shit,” he said, tossing it all onto a pile of similar items on his desk. On the other side of his monitor Rowena noted a stuffed parrot with a human-sized black eyepatch slung over its head. Boris turned back and saw that Rowena was still there.
“Yeah?” he asked once more.
“Um . . . Boris,” Rowena began. “Sara is . . . I mean, it's none of my business except she's been coming to me and—”
“Nunna her business either,” said Boris.
“Well, she—she's pretty upset and she—maybe you should try and—I mean, maybe if you . . .” He was staring at her in a way that would have been utterly blank if he hadn't also looked impatient. Rowena wanted something to fiddle with. It would have been easier, she thought, if Sara were a little more rational, or if she herself were certain that Boris actually considered Sara to be his girlfriend at all. “She's really upset,” Rowena concluded lamely.
Boris turned to his computer and used the mouse to bring up a picture Rowena suspected he'd had on his screen just before she'd come in; it was, of course, a photo of Maralynne. “She wants me to give up that,” he said.
“Um, yeah. I mean, she's just—I know that site is just a bunch of pictures, but Sara thinks you're so involved in it that she's—”
“Look at her,” Boris interrupted, waving at the screen. “She's hot.”
“Um . . .”
“Sara doesn't look like that.”
“Maybe not,” Rowena said, “but Sara's actually here, and you can talk to her, and . . . everything.” She wasn't sure how attractive the idea of talking to Sara might be to Boris; for all she knew this might be another reason for him to prefer the GlamCam site. She wished she were somewhere else.
“Talk to her,” Boris mused.
“Yes,” Rowena said. “Actually have a—a human relationship. You know?” She wasn't sure he did. She wasn't even sure “human relationship” was an apt description of what went on between Boris and Sara.
“Talk to her,” Boris said again, to himself. Rowena waited a moment, then left.
“Thank you!” Sara said.
“I'd call it cautious optimism,” Rowena told her. “But I wouldn't go any farther than that in any situation involving Boris.”
“Thank you!” Sara said again. “I knew you'd come through.”
“This is Boris,” Rowena reminded her. “Besides, he didn't say what he'd say. It might be ‘Forget it; I'm not giving up my porn for anybody.’ And if it is, you're going to have to—”
“I just knew Boris would come around if I could only—”
“Sara! Are you listening? I did not get a guarantee. I—”
“I knew I could count on you,” Sara said, and all but danced back to her desk. Rowena, watching her go, took a deep breath.
She wondered how long Sara's euphoria would last.
About three hours later Rowena was startled by the sound of a fist crashing down on her desk. “A fine friend you are!” Sara yelled.
“‘All taken care of,’ you said. ‘Nothing to—’”
“I did not say anything of the kind.”
“‘Talk to her,’ you tell him. Rowena!”
“Sara, I'm not responsible for what he said. It just seemed to me that the only way you'd get anywhere would be if Boris actually told you how—”
“Told me? Told that bimbo!”
Rowena stared at her. “What?”
“He's not talking to me. He's chatting with her, online. With her! About . . . stuff.”
Rowena sagged in her chair. “Oh, Sara,” she said.
“What kind of stuff?” asked Marjorie.
“You keep out of this,” Sara said without turning. She leaned in closer to Rowena. “You got me into this,” she said.
“Sara, I hardly—”
“I bet she's—you know,” Marjorie said. “And he's going to give her all his money because—”
“That's what happened on All My Hospitals,” Marjorie informed them. “Iridescence told Fred that—”
“Iridescence?” said Rowena, despite herself. “Fred?”
“Iridescence,” said Marjorie patiently, “told Fred that she—”
“My God!” Sara cried. “I don't believe you two! Here I am, with my life falling apart around me—”
“Your life is not falling apart,” Berna said. Rowena turned; Berna was standing behind her with her arms folded, head tilted critically to one side. “You just need a real boyfriend, that's all.”
“Oh, shut up!” Sara snapped.
“She told Fred that if he paid—”
“You shut up twice. Rowena, I have got to get him back.”
“You never had him,” said Berna.
“Will you shut up? I'm trying to chew out Rowena and make her fix everything and you just—”
“Like she's really gonna want to help you now,” Berna said. “She did what you wanted her to, you were so happy with everything, and now that you find it didn't work because your so-called boyfriend was too clueless, now you're gonna hassle her. Good luck.”
Sara stood a moment, considering. “Rowena,” she began, sweetly.
“Oh, God,” said Berna.
“Sara,” said Rowena, “I'll see what I can do. If you'll leave me alone for a while. Okay? So I can think?”
“Yeah, I promise. In and around getting a little of my work done, I promise.”
“Work,” said Sara, half scornfully. Berna shook her head at her and Sara said, “Thanks, Rowena,” and left. Berna followed, still shaking her head, and Rowena took a deep breath and turned to her papers. Peace at last. Maybe, she thought, once she finished with this portion of her project . . .
“See,” Marjorie said, “when Fred found out that Iridescence—”
Rowena dropped her head onto her arms.
Rowena trudged into work the next day already tired, already wanting to go back home. Sammy wouldn't be there, but neither would Sara and neither would the work she was afraid she wouldn't be able to do.
On the plus side, her sister didn't often call her at work, so she probably wouldn't have to deal with her . . . just her effect on Sara's life.
Not that that wasn't bad enough.
Past the receptionist, on and on and . . . all the way to her desk with no sign of Sara. She sat down, looked around. Still no Sara.
Her workday began. She went through two whole pages of her report, getting oddly more nervous whenever her mind drifted from the papers before her. Was Sara too angry even to come by and scold her? Was she out sick? What was happening?
Eventually she heard Sara's voice. “Thanks, Rowena.”
Rowena jumped, then looked up. Sara was, for some reason, actually looking a bit smug. “Um . . . for what?” Rowena asked.
“For helping get some sense into Boris, of course.”
Rowena went on looking at her. “How did I do that?” she asked.
“He chatted with the little tramp, just like you told him to,” Sara said, “and he found out that she's even stupider about computers than I am. I mean, way stupider. I didn't know it was possible.”
“It's possible,” Rowena said, remembering her sister.
“Her boyfriend does everything for her. I mean, everything. She has a note taped to her monitor reminding her how to do the chat, how to send email . . . Can you believe it?”
“I think so,” Rowena said.
“Anyway, it turns out he didn't mind so much that she has a boyfriend, but he absolutely could not handle the ignorance. So as far as he's concerned, she's out of the picture. Like, for good.” Smiling broadly, Sara reached over and patted Rowena's shoulder. “Thanks,” she said again, and waltzed away.
Rowena sat and watched her go. After only a few steps, though, Sara turned around. “By the way,” she said, “would you happen to know of any good beginner's books about computers? Something that'll make me a little sexier to him?”
“I . . . don't think so.”
“I'll see what I can find. Thanks.” And this time she left, and Rowena didn't see her for the rest of the day.
“So I guess it's over,” Rowena told Sammy that night. “Unless she comes running to me with this computer-literacy thing. And I'm not really the best person to help her with that.”
“You're not the worst.”
“Maybe not the worst, but it's really not my thing. Anyway—” She was cut off by the telephone. She went to answer it.
“Rowena!” cried her sister. “You have to help me!”
“Maralynne? What's wrong?”
“It's these computers! You have to help me!”
“Help you with computers? Maralynne—”
“I had this fan! And he really liked me! I don't think he was a producer but he was a real big fan! And he found out I don't know about computers and he dumped me!”
“Maralynne, he didn't dump you, he—look, it's not as if he was your boyfriend or anything. He was just a guy who looked at your site. And Chester still—”
“He dumped me! I lost him! You have to teach me about computers so it won't happen again!”
Rowena closed her eyes. “Maybe Chester can teach you,” she said. “I mean, if you really need to—”
“Chester doesn't speak people talk. I can't understand a word he says. Will you, Rowena? Please?”
Rowena looked at the ceiling. “I really don't know that much myself,” she said.
“Maralynne, listen. I think somebody I work with might know a good beginner's book. I'll ask her tomorrow.” Something told Rowena that Sara had already done more research on such books than she herself was willing to do, at least for her sister, who probably wouldn't learn anything from them anyway. She could hear Maralynne trying to argue with her, but Rowena held firm. She told Maralynne she had things to do, and she hung up the phone.
Volume III: Rowena Gets Married.
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