Upon arriving home from work one night, she found a welcome message on her answering machine from her friend and CEO at the Chamber of Commerce. She relaxed a few minutes then called Ann to find out what was up.
“Hello, nice to hear your voice. I can’t find a return address on an envelope addressed to you, care of the Chamber.”
“Should I be excited?”
“I don’t know.” Ann laughed, “It’s an envelope, so I imagine it’s a thank you card.”
“If you’re free for lunch tomorrow, why don’t we meet and catch up on the latest.”
“Great, shall we meet at the Steak House?”
“Perfect. I love their Chicken Sandwich,” Eilea agreed with undisguised zeal.
“Done. See you then.”
The following day, as planned, Ann crossed the street, entered the restaurant and chose a window seat awaiting Eilea’s arrival.
“I see you managed to get our favourite table,” she said managing a huge grin.
“It’s good to see you. You look great!”
“Thank you, so do you.”
“So, how are you?”
“Things are looking up. We received an increase in funding from the District, which is great news.”
“How does your summer funding look?”
“I expect we’ll get six students. Government cutbacks being what they are, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Just then the waitress approached with two drinks on a tray. “Excuse me, but we didn’t order these,” Eilea said, looking up into the pretty young face.
“I’m not sure who ordered them,” she responded with a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude, “I was told to bring the drinks to your table. One is a Tia Maria, the other a Martini.”
“We didn’t order them. I don’t want them, thank you. Please take them away. There’s been some kind of misunderstanding.”
“Ok, if that’s what you want.” The waitress shrugged before retrieving the unwanted drinks and leaving.
Ann spoke nonchalantly, “If I weren’t going back to work, I might take them up on it.”
“The kids and I are planning a vacation. We’ll probably stay on the island. I was thinking about driving to Black Creek, Englishman River Falls, Big and Little Qualicum Falls, Chemainus and over to Long Beach. I know it’s changed a lot in the eighteen years since I was last there, but I want to see it anyway, and I’m sure the kids would love the beaches.”
“Of course, you know they want to camp. Ugh! I don’t know if I’m up to it. I’m too old to sleep on the ground anymore. I can barely get out of bed as it is,” she quipped.
“You’re not that bad!” Ann remarked, laughing at the face Eilea made.
“It feels that way at times.”
“The change will do you good. So when do you go?”
“We’re leaving Friday night, right after work.”
“Wow, that soon.”
“Yep. Want to come?”
“Thanks, but I AM too old to sleep on the ground. I like my creature comforts too much to even entertain the thought.”
“Listen to this,” Eilea giggled, “and she’s sitting there encouraging me to do it!?”
Ann laughed. “I know, do as I say, not as I do.”
“I figured I’d look into renting a motor home or a camper which will help keep us all happy and comfortably warm and dry.”
“Enough about me, I understand Filomi Days are on schedule and there will be fireworks as per . . .” Eilea stopped mid-sentence, a perplexed look on her face.
“Look at this!”
“What is it?” Ann asked before reaching her hand out.
“What do you make of that?” Eilea asked aloud for her benefit more than Ann’s.
“Why it’s a picture of you!” Ann replied in astonishment.
“Yeah, it is!”
“You are a dark horse. When did you pose for this?”
“What?” she replied in confusion, “That’s definitely you!” Ann replied.
“It has to be Carrot Park and I bet it’s a sunrise at about the time I go jogging. Logically I wouldn’t run in an evening dress not to mention I don’t own one. I don’t go to enough functions to warrant the expense.”
“It’s not even your dress?” Ann remarked incredulously.
“Do you remember that fiasco, when I died my hair and it went pitch black and I hated it so much that I had the color removed again?”
“Yes, I remember, I thought you looked stunning! What about it?”
“Look at the picture and my hair! And that gown is positively indecent! I would never wear anything like that!”
“You’ve always been conservative,” Anne replied thoughtfully.
“Disconcerting, this is very disconcerting!”
“I imagine so. What are you going to do about it?”
“I don’t know,” she responded thoughtfully while stuffing the note back into the envelope to drop it into her purse. “I’m stunned!”
“I wouldn’t let it pass if I were you. Perhaps you should talk to the Police about it and see what they have to say,” Ann suggested.
“I’m upset enough to do just that. God this is so weird!” Eilea lost her appetite and when their food arrived, other than pushing it around her plate or picking at it didn’t finish it.
“I’d better go. I have some errands to run before I get back to work. I’ll phone you tonight,” Eilea promised.
Noting the distracted look on Eilea’s face Ann said, “Ok, talk to you later. Glad we could get together.” She was far more troubled by the letter than she’d let on, unfortunately, Ann couldn’t take the time to reassure her now. She’d call later for sure.
Eilea settled her half of the bill before asking the cashier, “Do you remember who ordered the drinks earlier? Someone had to pay for them.”
“Sorry, I wasn’t paying much attention, it was pretty busy, we were slammed and everything, sorry.”
“So you didn’t happen to notice whether it was a man or a woman then.”
The waitress sighed, stared off into space thoughtfully before saying, “It was a man, ’cause I remember thinking he was a hunk, and if he was buying drinks for someone, it meant he was probably taken. I didn’t pay much attention after that.”
“It was worth a shot. Thanks anyway,” Eilea said before exiting the restaurant.