The table was covered with layers of drawings. Sketches of pieces and full ensembles of beautifully designed clothing. The designs bore a mark of class, distinctly above gauche. She was reputed to be"hovering within the untouchable realm between D&G and Chanel. Classic styles with a marked hint of the girl within." Her style had always been her own.
The drawings were being unceremoniously lifted, shifted and then left in a state of bothered disarray by the beautiful red head who alternately moaned and spoke to herself.
"It was just here, dammit! What did I do with it."
Every day and night had been spent working on her fall line. Her A.W. Jackson label was comparatively small in the world of big fashion, but her shows always received good reviews, and she had made enough to allow her Father to spend his last years as a man of leisure. She'd never troubled him with the confused and complicated proceedings leading to the financing of her opening for business. Both of them knew he was aware of where it had come from, but a silent understanding kept them from speaking openly about it.
The door to her suite opened behind her. Assuming it was her assistant, she spoke to her without looking around;
"Iona, did you grab the Fall journal before you left?"
The voice which answered her was not only different from the one she'd been expecting, it was also distantly familiar.
"If I had, you'd be the last person I'd return it to. No amount of begging or flattery would be enough to get it-" he was cut off by way of her petite body forcing him backwards out the door he'd just entered, as she threw her arms around his neck. He laughed boisterously and wrapped her in a heartfelt embrace.
"Duckie, thank God! Its nothing less than fabulous that you're here. Let me take a look at you." she stepped back and looked him over head to toe. Seeing his choice of footwear, she crooked one eyebrow at him and asked, "Creepers?"
"I had to bring the Duckster with me, so I wore the shoes, but I go by Phil now. These are actually my 15 year old sons." he grinned infectiously, and seeing the twinkle in her eye, he leaned forward to hug her again. "It's amazing to see you, and you, are radiant."
They shared another wide grin, and then chuckled, "You still have Iona with you?" the door behind him opened as he asked this, and Andie's oldest friend walked in, "You bet your ass, sweetheart. Give this old girl a hug, it's good to see you."
After a tight hug, Phil leaned back, "You are looking lovely, Iona, but I'm afraid Andie still has you beat."
Andie rolled her eyes, "You haven't changed a bit."
Duckie laughed, "I don't know, there's a little bit more of me, and a little less hair." he said, taking off the hat he wore.
"Yes, but your style is still as unique as ever." she retorted, inclining her head towards his outfit.
Iona sighed, and then moaned whimsically. They both looked at her, and she reached out to squeeze both their arms. "It does me good to see the two of you chatting away like a century hasn't passed. Makes me feel young again."
Andie rolled her eyes and and shot a mock indignant look at Duckie for his benefit. "You are young, Iona. You've just been being young for longer than most people."
Iona cast a tauntingly mischievous look at her friend and boss, and replied, "Asses shouldn't be smart, it impedes their purpose."
Looking mildly lost, Duckie looked questioningly at Andie, "That's Iona's way of calling me a dumb ass. It's a farce, Iona despairs of all talk of asses in general because she's still mourning the loss of her own."
Iona gasped and pointed at her hips, "It's true, I've said it before, I had a great butt. Now though, whereas it used to sit happily just below the lower meridian, it's gone all Antarctic now." she finished, waving her hands dismissively.
Andie and Duckie both laughed, and Duckie said, "Well, Canada's still gorgeous, Iona."
"Bless your heart, little Duck man. I should have stolen you when I had the chance for 5 minutes." she smirked, then seeming to remember something, she hit herself on the forehead with her open palm, "OH! The fall journal, I left it downstairs, I'll be right back." she whisked through the doors fast enough to be a danger to anything on the other side of them.
As the door swung closed behind her, he turned back to Andie. "So, a fashion designer? I always knew you'd go on to greatness."
She chewed her lip a little in a way that nagged at old feelings he recalled from many summer's past. "Hmm? I don't know about being great, but I certainly do feel great. I love my job." she said by way of explanation.
"It shows, actually, I found out what you were doing through my wife. She came down one day dressed for a party in this gorgeous dress. I asked her where she'd gotten it, and admittedly, how much it cost, and she said, "It's an A.W. Jackson, she's not well known, but her designs are..." he ended there, without going on.
After several beats of pause, Andie couldn't wait any longer, "My designs are what?"
"I don't know exactly, my wife was speechless. Apparently, she couldn't come up with an adjective to describe how amazing your stuff is. Diane doesn't react that way to much, so I looked the designer up online. A.W.," he chuckled. "I should have known. Is the "Jackson" for your Dad?"
Andie had been smiling widely, but at the mention of her Dad something wistful entered her expression, and her eyes dulled slightly. She said, "Yes. He always thought I was ridiculous adding the Jackson in, but I know for a fact that it made him happy in the last years before he passed away." she smiled, but it didn't quite reach her eyes. Shaking it off quickly though, she continued, "Enough about me, what are you doing? Where are you working? Who's Diane? You said you had a son, are there other children? Will your wife be here tonight w-"
Phil held his hands up in a warding off gesture. "Whoa, whoa, Andie. Allow space to answer, before moving on to the next question. Olympic-level, linguistic-acrobat I am not." he laughed, and Andie giggled. It was a perfect moment to him.
"I'm sorry, go ahead, I'm just so excited to see you. Please, answer the questions."
"Let me see if I can remember all of those questions. Ok, first I think you asked what I'm doing, and where I'm working. I'll assume those are both basically the same question, the answer isn't interesting, but it pays the bills. I work for the Government."
Andie grinned again, "Get out! Are you a spy? God knows you were always on stake outs outside of my place when we were kids."
Blushing a little Phil laughed, "No, I'm DEFINITELY in a different department than that. I work for the Postal Service as a Mail Carrier." Phil slumped a little. "I know it's very dull, but it's given me excellent insurance benefits, a great retirement plan, and guaranteed vacation two weeks out of every year in the district I'm in."
"Duc-...Phil, it's great that you deliver mail. Do you walk, or ride your bike?" she said with a taunting tone.
"Cute, but no, I walk. Well...and drive." he rolled his eyes a little, "Now as for the next questions, about my family. I've been married to my wife Diane for about eighteen years. We have two sons; Kevin my fifteen year old, and Keith who just turned thirteen last month. Diane has been in Kansas for the last two months caring for her Father, and the boys are with her. She just lost him this past weekend. She's helping her family with the arrangements and getting his things in order. So basically, Diane won't be able to make it tonight.
Andie's ordinarily bright expression clouded, "I'm sorry Phil. That's horrible, your poor wife." she stood regarding him for a moment as he nodded in agreement and looked at his feet. "Hmm?..."
He raised his head and looked at her expectantly, in response to her questioning hum.
She quirked her eyebrow at him as something glinted in her eyes. "Is there such a thing as going stag...together?"
Amused, Phil replied, "I think there certainly should be. We'll start a trend."
Raising a stiff hand out and pointing at his feet. "You don't intend on wearing those..." she lifted her arm, "or that, do you? I might have to go alone if you are."
He laughed good naturedly, "No, I wanted to come and see you before I went up to get ready, shall I?" He asked, pointing awkwardly behind him at the door with both hands.
Andie checked her watch, she tilted her head as she lifted her eyes back to him. "Sure, I think I'd better start getting ready."
"See, that's just the sort of statement Diane makes that makes me very uncomfortable. I know when she specifies, "START" to get ready, it will likely be hours before I see her again, and the interim will be filled by a lot of secrets for beauty I will never be privy to..." he closed his eyes and inhaled deeply.
Andie recognized the deep breath of someone who was only getting started on his monologue and called out to him.
"Phil," she said softly. Surprised, he opened his eyes immediately and waited. She continued, "The reunion?"
"Right, yes, I'll go. We'll meet in the lobby?"
She winked and pointed at him simultaneously as if to say "Right!", then turned and walked away as Phil turned to walk to the door. As she glided through the door to her room he stopped with a hand on the door and watched her. Phil loved Diane dearly and with all his soul, but something about Andie Walsh still made him feel like a gawky teenager, incapable of any form of grace.
Vaguely familiar faces were scattered around the foyer. The distant sound of the music from the time of her youth thumped rhythmically from the other room. There was a table outside of two sets of open double doors. It was from beyond these that the music wafted into the lobby. She stepped up to the table smiling at the two girls behind it. One of them was pretty, and youthful, only slightly aged. The other obviously spent a lot of money to preserve herself, but the years hadn't been entirely kind to her. The older one cut her eyes at Andie and grinned in a way that showed she was being polite, only for the benefit of those around her.
"Well, if it isn't Andie Walsh."
Taken aback, she momentarily stared blankly at her. She willed herself to recognize the woman, but wasn't having much luck. As the woman handed her a label with her printed name on it, and a black and white thumbnail of her high school portrait, Andie smiled a little sheepishly and said, "I'm sorry, I don't recall your name."
"Hello Carolyn," a voice over Andie's shoulder said. Catching the marked change in Carolyn's expression, Andie turned around and looked back, knowing who it was before she saw him with her eyes.
He looked almost the same. Tall, cold blue eyes, fair skin, and an identical expression of predicted disaster she'd seen on his face the last time they'd met. He wore an obviously expensive and beautiful Armani suit. The woman on his arm outclassed him by several levels. She was gorgeous and looked curiously, but kindly at Andie as her husband addressed her with a slight tilt of his hand.
"Steff." she replied in kind.
"Honey, this is Andie Walsh, she briefly dated Blane when we were kids. Andie, this is my wife, Michelle."
Michelle held out a well tanned right hand to Andie and warmly said, "Hello Andie, it's a pleasure to meet you."
Andie smiled genuinely at Michelle, "I'm very pleased to meet you. Your dress is beautiful, and you look lovely in it."
Steff looked slightly pale, as his wife replied. "Thank you, you do as well. I wonder that you didn't keep her out of Blane's reach by holding on to her yourself, honey."
Steff composed himself and smiled benignly, but didn't look away from Andie. "Ah yes, but you see, Andie only had eyes for Blane."
His expression returned to one of discomfort, and he seemed to drag his eyes away from her to look through the open doors. He turned to his wife, "Michelle, I think I see Lee Campbell, I'd like you to meet his wife Stacey. She's better company."
Michelle had the grace to look offended, "Steff, that's a horrible thing to say."
Andie felt her expression harden, and gritted her teeth as Steff responded to his wife's accusation. "What's horrible about saying that the wife of a friend would be better company for you than I could be?"
Michelle looked mildly abashed and giggled in embarrassment, "Oh! I thought you were...well, nevermind. Andie, will you please excuse us?"
Not able to accept the explanation as easily as his wife was, but liking Michelle despite her poor choice in men, Andie smiled at her. "Of course, it's very nice to meet you, Michelle."
"I hope we'll see you inside, Andie." she said genuinely, and with that, Michelle walked between Andie and her husband, and continued into the room. Steff meanwhile held Andie's eyes as he said, "That would be amazing." in a polite tone that dripped with a double meaning. He raised his eyebrows once at Andie and then turned in a way that said he'd wasted enough time talking to her. Shaking her head in disbelief, and chuckling, she turned around and walked into the restroom.
After finishing a make-up and dress check, Andie walked back into the foyer. She made her way just inside the doors of the banquet room, to see if Phil had come in while she'd been in the restroom. She stepped another few steps in trying to see past the milling faces, scanning the tables and around the room.
Andie fumbled her purse a little as she searched, and it fell to the floor. She knelt down to retrieve it, as two black shod male feet stepped into her view. The hem of the black dress pants above them had been tailored, but not well. It was hastily done, she could have done a much better job. She smiled assuming she knew who it was. She looked up as a hand came down to her as he spoke.
"Hi Andie." the voice said.
Her smile faltered. She was expecting Duckie...Phil, but this voice she'd have known anywhere. She switched her motion mid-rise and stood without assistance. She steeled her expression, doing her best not to allow herself to sound any different than she had with anyone else. This was not just anyone else.