“Whoa! Hello up there!” Jed is usually taller than I am, but only by a couple of inches. He gave me an appraising look. Jed works in the accounting department, so most of his looks—at anything—are appraising.
“Like my new shoes?” I took a step back and twirled. It had taken me a while to find a black skirt that was both slinky and swirly. Christmas lights glinted off the subtle sparkles in my red sweater—also slinky, but not too slinky. I kicked a foot up behind me so he could appraise my new shoes.
“Whoa! Don’t point those heels at me! You’re dangerous.”
I sniffed and grabbed my jacket. “They don’t call them killer high heels for nothing, you know.”
“Just don’t try them out on me. Seriously, Miri, you look gorgeous.” He walked me to his car and opened the door for me.
“You really think so?” I’d been so busy glorying in my new Christmas finery that I’d managed to ignore the sinking pit in the bottom of my stomach. Until now.
Jed smiled. “You’re a knock-out. A pretty knockout, and at these parties, those are scarce as frog-hairs.”
“Um, thanks, if that’s a compliment.” Sometimes you couldn’t tell with the country-boy accountant.
He just kept smiling Jed continued to smile at me, so I quickly turned to face forward. “Do you think he’ll notice?” Now This time, Jed turned forward with a snort. “Only if he can manage to disengage one of his four available brain cells from thinking about himself long enough to notice.” The car made an awful noise as he started it up with more violence than necessary.
“Come on, Jed. Trevor’s sweet.”
“So is antifreeze, but dogs die if they drink it.”
“Uh…yeah.” I was pretty sure that wasn’t a compliment, so I changed the subject. “Thanks for driving tonight, Jed. It means a lot to me.” Jed had
been patiently listeninged to me talk about Trevor for the last six months, and he’d volunteered—I had NOT said a word—to take me to the work party tonight , for moral support.
“No problem.” He patted his pocket. “It should be entertaining to watch, but I’ve got my book, just in case.”
I bonked [awkward] him lightly on the shoulder. “That’s what you call my desperate, so-far-unrequited passion? Entertainment?”
“It, the party, not it, your unrequited passion.” I could see him smirking at me out of the corner of my eye.
[Need a transition]
At the door, Cindy, my boss from the art department, greeted me with a hug. “See if you can find where I hung the mistletoe,” she whispered in my ear, with a meaningful flick of her eyes toward her living room.
I followed her gaze. Trevor. Gesturing as he told an apparently hilarious story to a crowd of admiring women. The pit in my stomach sank somewhere under the front porch, and I followed Jed as he made the absolute minimum social conversations, grabbed a soda, and headed for the kitchen.
He was already settled in a chair with his feet up on another, opening his book. “Miri! What are you doing in here?”
I grabbed his footrest chair and sank down on it. “Chickening out. Did you see how Ashley Owens was falling all over him?”
“No more than she usually does in staff meeting.”
He Jed held his book in front of his nose. “Stop bothering me and go away. I’m trying to read.”
“No, you’re trying to make me mad on purpose.”
He didn’t look up. “Seems to be working great.”
“Fine!” Secretly grateful for the rush of adrenalin, I dropped my purse on the table for him to watch and stomped out of the brightly-lit kitchen, into the dim living room. Then [I] almost fell off my killer heels as I ran right into Trevor.
“Whoa! Careful.” He grabbed my shoulders to steady me, sending tingling electricity all through my body. I knew my one big chance when I saw it, so I looked up at him from under my extra-thick eyelashes.
He didn’t let go of Trevor kept his hands on my shoulders as he looked down at me. Even with the killer heels, I still stood a good head shorter than he did. “Miri?” I didn’t know whether to feel flattered or annoyed at the look of surprise on his face. I’d known I was invisible, but I didn’t know I’d been nonexistent in his mind.
That just meant it was time to get to work. “Trevor.” I tried to sound surprised, and glad, and enticing, all at once.
It, or the heels, or the Christmas magic must have worked. “Would you like a drink?” he asked, releasing my shoulders but taking my elbow. My previously leaden stomach was suddenly leaping and dancing for agitated joy.
When we’d chosen some snacks, he led me
passed past the kitchen. Behind Trevor’s back, Jed stuck his head out [of the kitchen] and, grinning, gave me a thumbs-up. I scowled at him. If he messed this up for me, he’d find out the real meaning of “killer shoes”! Still grinning, he Jed saluted me with his book and disappeared back into the kitchen.
Ashley Owens glared. Jessica Frampton pouted. I glowed, and giggled, and snuggled. Halfway through the evening, Trevor’s arm was around me. An hour later, we were standing under Cindy’s well-concealed mistletoe, in a secluded doorway toward the back of the house.
“Miri.” Trevor was a man of few words, it seemed, but his arms around me, and his deep, fervent brown eyes said all sorts of things I liked to hear.
“Trevor.” I tipped my head up, and his lips touched mine.
A warm, enticing tingle ran through me. Then my lips started swelling up. [Lead into this just a bit more slowly. Have her notice the tingle in her lips getting stronger, hotter, etc.]
I took a step back from him, shrugging his hands off, and clamped my hands to my mouth as my tongue suddenly ballooned to twice its normal size.
“Shrimp,” I gasped, as my throat and neck started to block off my air. “Did you eat shrimp?”
“Shrimp?” I was dying, and he was rubbing those four brain cells together, trying to make a spark. “Well, that one salad, I guess…”
“Help,” I squeaked, grabbing the doorframe behind me.
That, he understood. As I struggled for air and sank to the floor, he dashed toward the living room,
unsubtly yelling, “Help! Help!”
At least Trevor’s long legs were good for something. Cindy arrived a moment later, skidding to her knees beside me on the floor.
But Jed was right behind her, frantically digging in my black, beaded purse.
He met my eye as he triumphantly produced a bright-yellow tube and flipped off the cap with one hand.
“Hurry,” I croaked. My vision was turning dark and swirly around the edges. All I could see was Jed’s face, swimming in the darkness.
“Stand back!” he cried to the crowd [.] [It would be better to include this earlier, have her hearing then] of coworkers who’d gathered to exclaim, “Allergies!” and then tell each other stories about their relatives’ dire bee stings.]
Tube clutched in his fist,
he Jed raised it high in the air. A collective gasp went up [from who? Identify] as he whammed the needle into the side of my thigh, right through the swirly black skirt.
Jed held the needle, which stung like crazy, in the side of my leg until long after all the medicine had drained from the tube. He didn’t let go until I’d drawn a long, shaky breath.
Everyone else must have been holding their breaths, too, because they all sighed at once. People started crowding in, asking what they could do to help.
I struggled [to] find enough breath to ask them to please all go away.
Then I threw up. That did the trick. I didn’t miss the look of shocked disgust on Trevor’s face as he beat a hasty retreat, Ashley Owens already clinging to his arm.
By the time the paramedics arrived, I was sitting up and breathing after a fashion, but I thought some other party guests might need medical care if one more person asked, “Are you sure you’re OK?” The paramedics didn’t make me ride in the ambulance, but they extracted a firm promise—from Jed—that I would go straight to the emergency room to get checked over.
Dressed in a pair of Cindy’s pajamas, I leaned gratefully on Jed as we walked slowly to his car. He opened the door for me, but then he grabbed my shoulders and turned me to face him, his face [change one] stern, almost angry.
“Miri, didn’t you promise yourself never to go out with anyone until you told him about your shrimp allergy?”
“Well,” I stammered, “it wasn’t exactly a date, and it’s not very romantic, and—” I clamped my mouth shut and met his eye. “Quit yelling at me. I almost died just now!”
I’d never seen Jed so deadly serious before, and it scared me almost as much as my swelling throat had
scared me. “Exactly.” He folded me into his arms, my favorite Jed hug, and we stood there shaking in the cold as the enormity of what almost happened washed over us.
I pulled away first, my teeth chattering. “Come on. We promised you’d take me to the emergency room.”
He didn’t let me go, and I suddenly realized how close his face was to mine—and how warm his breath was, and how nice he smelled, and how glad I was that he’d come with me this evening.
He leaned even closer, but I jerked my head back. “Hold on! There was shrimp in one of the salads.”
“Didn’t eat any,” he murmured, gently putting his hand on the back of my head and pulling me in again. “I never eat shrimp when I’m with you, Miri.”
Our lips touched as he whispered, “Just in case.”
What I liked best: I liked the twist with the lips swelling up. Funny.
Magazine ready: Close enough, although I agree with the commenter who said this felt like part of a longer work. Could be expanded to be part of a novel.