"And the winner is..."
Her heart was racing. After years of seeking recognition, of building a name in the world of advertising, this was the most awaited moment. Roger glanced at her, as if he had rehearsed his reaction and it was just one of those moments. Bert also looked at her and gave an emotional smile, that was soon returned. But Peggy still couldn't hide her nervousness. Although Roger had suggested to hold her hand, she denied, to prevent that the table companions realized she was shaking. Her entire career at the agency was going through her head as a film. And your eyes couldn't help but view those others who were at her side for a little or much time. Looked at Ted, who was with his wife, Joan and Pete. Those few seconds seemed more like years. And finally, heard from that host a familiar name.
Fleischmann Campaign: Sterling Cooper & Partners!
Finally. Peggy barely had time to notice the small details of that moment. Just remember to have embraced Roger, Bert and Ted as she heard a clap coming from every corner of the room. Couldn't remember the words she heard during the hug, but know that something was said. In this very important moment, she missed Don's presence. Despite everything, he has always been her mentor. And even though knowing that the campaign was superior to that of other major agencies that competed, still didn't fail to be amazed. During the trip to the stage, could barely feel her feet, but still had a vague idea of the talking.
"I just want to thank the excellent staff of Sterling Cooper & Partners, who assisted me in this campaign. Without you this would not be possible. Some are not here then: thank Stan Rizzo and Michael Ginsberg. This award also belongs to you."
After a short pause that seemed too long, thought proper to add one more key point.
"And to Don Draper. Thanks for being with me all the years that prepared me for this."
Went to the table again, in such euphoria that she only could laugh as she received the embrace once more of her longtime colleagues. All were visibly proud, and above all, she was proud of herself.
The awards continued normally, and to finish, a band took place and new drinks were served. The initial ecstasy of having won the prize was already fading, to see that Ted was not only his wife but seemed quite happy to be with her. Long ago they didn't talk, since Ted decided to move to California. Peggy concluded that it was positive for him, although some glances have been exchanged. Decided to light up a cigarette and start a round of whiskeys sour. Joan and Bert didn't stay long, and Roger stayed with Pete during a good part of the event, talking to friends, acquaintances and, who knows, some new clients. Ted and his wife decided to walk all over the place, and sometimes danced together, which was difficult to endure for Peggy. For every laugh shared between them, she felt the need to drink more, and in an attempt to escape that place she start looking at her trophy. Then after some time she realized it was pointless to continue torturing herself and began to get her coat and check the bag. Felt that someone was staring at her, and when turning back, realized it was Pete, coming towards her with a grin.
"First of all, congratulations! I have to say that personally."
He said, as he shaked her hands and bowed slightly.
"Thanks, Pete. But this is for the agency too."
She was flattered with this attitude. Both was drinking a little more, and Pete looked visibly without direction. After Roger left, Peggy noticed from her table that he walked prowling the hall but without speaking to anyone.
"Second, what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be there celebrating?"
He pointed to the path between the tables that served as a dance floor for the guests.
"Who said I'm not celebrating here too?"
And raised a glass of whiskey. It's clear that in fact she was not celebrating, but trying to forget everything that happened after the awards ended.
His eyes rolled, and then met hers again. They stared for a few seconds and both understood that it was a lie.
"I can't believe you're here alone. Lets dance."
Peggy gave a little laugh and shook her head.
"I'd better not."
Pete decided to take one of the chairs and sit beside her. Now he was back to the dance floor and facing her. His eyes almost crossed Peggy's. She hates how she feels almost transparent every time they look at each other for a longer period of time.
"Look, you may don't know, but I dance very well. If that is the fear, I can guarantee that from my part you will not embarrass yourself."
Peggy laughed incredulously at him. Even thought to herself that, after so many years, it was he who was giving a relief at that night so uncomfortable. But soon took a deep breath, and the face soon changed traits. She returned his gaze to where Ted was, and Pete realized his jokes would not work for too long.
"Look, Peggy. This is your night. I mean, who gained a Clio here was you, not him. It's a big deal and it will be a waste if you don't enjoy."
When she came to staring at him again, Pete realized that Peggy finally understood his point of view. That this kind of thing should not matter to her. Not at the moment. Not today.
"And... I mean... I envy you."
They both laughed, for a longer time than usual. Results of drinks. After a brief pause, in which Peggy reflected that request, the silence was finally broken.
"Are you sure?"
"You know... You really want to dance with me?"
'I already said that I dance well, now about you... I don't know."
"Well, if you hadn't denied me one time, you would see that I can dance too."
They both smiled and stood up from the table, toward the dance floor, which was soon noticed by Ted, on the other side of the hall.
And both began to dance, nicely as expected. Unconcerned with people around, they yet attracted the attention of other dancers. Between laughs, a few small missteps, and confidence, both felt renewed again. That dance could look anything for other people, but for them it was as if a huge weight had been lifted from their shoulders, just to take advantage of the simple moments in life. They both needed it.
The band was lively, the music even more, and the two could not radiate more energy and lightness. Just watching from a distance it was possible to consider that they knew each other for years, and tonight was only one of several more they've had before. And of course this joy didn't escape the gaze of Ted, and his wife too. He had to agree with her comment that Peggy was "beaming" that night. He always suspected the friendship between the two. Although both have very different positions in the agency, it was clear for Ted every time they were together that they have a connection somehow different and beyond professional.
After several songs, if Peggy had not looked quickly behind her, would hardly see Ted going to her direction on the dance floor... At that moment she didn't care anymore. Only cared to dance, grab a last drink and finally leave. But that didn't stop him to go talk to her. Despite the look he directed to Pete, indicating that only wanted to talk to her, he stood still and staring Ted. An attitude that wasn't disapproved by Peggy.
"Congratulations, Peggy. You deserve it." He sighed and looked serious, almost like a reproach.
"Thank you." her gaze somewhat weakened too, as if in spite of everything, she somehow expected a different attitude from him.
"I see you're enjoying the night! Only do not overdo the drinks, you have to go home yet."
"I can get a cab. But thanks for the concern."
"Take care of her, Pete."
"Of course I will. Don't worry too much."
Pete's reply further infuriated Ted, who left and reached his wife in the exit door. His attitude upset Peggy, who didn't know if she should still dance or go to the table again.
When Peggy finally caught Pete's arm and tried to leave, he held her. The latest music had just stopped, and he understood her signal, but showed that he wanted to stay a little longer. Another song started, a little slower than the others, almost a ballad. Pete came near Peggy and whispered, which brought a strange feeling for her.
"Don't tell me it was only for Ted. I thought you were really having fun."
"But I am"
She replied, turning away her head a little, to come face to face with him.
"Then why do you want to go right now he left?"
"Has nothing to do with it. I'm just tired."
"Are you sure?"
"Of course. Actually, I forgotten him. Until now."
"Look, he's an idiot. And that was what he wanted, to ruin your happiness. Now don't tell me he did."
She could see Pete's features changing slightly, but just took a light smile from her to made him smile again. Both know masterfully how to communicate without words.
"What's that song that's playing? I don't remember the name."
"It's Janis, Pete. How can you not know? Is called 'maybe'"
"I know it's Janis. Just didn't know the name, ok? I like this song."
"Me too, she's great."
"Well, my body is aching."
"I think we have no age for these things, Pete."
Both gave a laugh. They had drunk too much, laughing too much, talking too much and sometimes singing too. They actually preferred the cab, which was a right choice, considering their situation.
"You know, Peggy, I needed this night. I'm tired of doing everything and anything at that agency. I mean, as much as I do, no one really wants me to do. And I'm tired of wasting my time stressing with others. Actually I don't care about anything else. I think if they want me to leave tomorrow, I'll be fine. Or I can leave. I mean, I'm a partner too."
Peggy continued staring at him, not knowing what to say. She had just won an award for her work, so was a sign of recognition, but also didn't fail to understand what Pete said.
"See, Peggy, it's just a rant. It's just that... I feel comfortable talking about these things with you. In fact, about anything."
A deathly silence invaded the minutes that seemed to last for years. Both continued to staring each other, because they knew about what they were talking about. In fact, about whom.
"I can talk about it too, if you want."
"Say what? I don't think we have too much to say about that."
"See? You don't let me."
"Okay, Pete, so what do you think we should talk about it?"
Peggy's eyes became brighter, her tone became low and sad and, although the matter doesn't come to the fore, it was enough for Pete realizing he opened a wound again. He sought her hand and squeezed it hard.
"Don't think you're the only one who thinks about it. The only one that sometimes caught yourself wondering where he might be. Or if it's all okay with him."
A tear fell from Peggy's eyes, and with no more courage to face Pete, she stood watching their hands intertwined.
"You don't understand, Pete."
"Yes, I do. I know you feel guilty. Look, we were very young. We both didn't know what we were doing. And if we both got here, we were shoved in the same stream."
Her gaze went to the window of the cab, and then again to Pete. He wiped another tear that had just fallen in her face, and tried to disguise his eyes that was also weeping. She gave him a smirk, which softened the moment a little more.
"You barely have an idea of how I know you, Peggy."
"Thank you for still being here."
"As you let me, I'll always be. And know that, if someday you want to search for him, you can call me. I want to be with you in that moment."
The sweet tone of his voice reminded her that conversation they had years ago, when he confessed his feelings. And the look they exchanged, she would swear are still the same. The same even of that day, a few years before that, when he knocked on her door late at night and told he had to see her.
"Why, Pete, why it never changes? When will it change?"
"Peggy... I already asked myself this too, a few years ago. And I think that, maybe, now I know the answer."
"I guess I always knew too."
The cab stopped in front of Pete's apartment. She could feel his breath getting closer to her mouth, but she preferred to keep staring at his eyes. He couldn't stop looking at her too and both closed their eyes almost instinctively. He gave a kiss that was sweet at first, but gradually both was so involved that soon their arms interlaced one another. When the kiss ended, they continued staring at each other, this time with more warmth and lightness, as the two finally talked about all they feared.
"Please... Let me know if we are right."
This time it was Pete's heart that was racing. His face froze for a few seconds, until he was sure of what she meant. When he finally understood, could hardly believe in what was happening. He got out of the cab, and took Peggy's hand, until accompanied her out. When the cab drove away, they smiled and shared one more kiss out of the apartment. Finally, after so many comings and goings, many years, and after experiencing what they wanted and didn't want in life, now both finally realized that they were facing a second chance.