Charlotte – part 10

Ryan was actually feeling a little nervous. He and Randi had met up early this morning before breakfast to go over their presentation one last time.

Ryan knew the information, he knew the results. They were even positive results. He was sharing good news with the entire company! He had just never made a presentation like this in front of so many people before. He felt incredibly lucky to have been the one assigned to this project. It had been so much work, so many hours, but now it all seemed worth it.

“Are you ready?” Randi asked as she looked over at him. She was professionally and modestly dressed but with her usual much-too-heavy make up. She could have looked really good, but she was trying to be sexy. Women! he thought to himself.

“As ready as I’ll ever be. You know what you’re supposed to do?” He licked his lips nervously.

“Don’t you worry yourself, darlin,” Randi drawled in a fake Southern accent. “You just do your part and I’ll be doin’ mine.”

Ryan smirked. She was trying to lighten the mood as always, but he was too nervous. He looked back down at his notecards, bouncing along at the same pace as his legs. Finally, he heard their introduction. Both of them stood up and walked to the stage.

Ryan stepped up to the microphone and introduced himself and Randi again. He glanced up at the screen and saw that it was blue. Not their presentation. He looked at Randi whose eyes were enormous and she looked horrified. He looked back out at the technicians in the back of the room and saw them furiously working to restore presentation.

For a split second, Ryan panicked. Then he had a better idea.

“Well ladies and germs,” he began. “Surprise! You thought we were going to bore you with details about our social enhancement programs, but really, you’re in for a terrible stand up comic act!” Ryan told two jokes that successfully got laughs from the crowd. He was surprised himself!

As the laughter died down from the second joke, the presentation popped onto the screen, which caused an eruption of applause from the group.

“Oh, too bad,” Ryan joked. “Those were just the warm up jokes! I guess we’re headed back to our regularly scheduled programming. But seriously folks, we have some very interesting facts and conclusions for you, so sit back and enjoy the ride.”

The presentation went even more smoothly than Ryan could have imagined. Each of them nailed their part of the presentation. They even had extra time for questions and were able to intelligently answer most of the questions from their coworkers. Ryan was soaring. He could not wait to celebrate tonight!

That evening at happy hour, Ryan met more of his coworkers than he would have thought possible in such a short time. The CEO even stopped by to congratulate him on his successful handling of the technological problem and keeping the audience engaged in an appropriate manner. He couldn’t believe it. This was turning into the best day ever. He couldn’t wait to get home and tell Charlotte all about it!

***

 

Before she knew it, Charlotte was passing Des Moines and it was after noon. She still had some food from her hotel raid this morning and plenty of gas, so she kept driving. Soon, she had reached Omaha and needed to fill up on gas. She hit the gas station and got right back on the road. Not wanting to think any more, Charlotte searched for a radio station and cranked up the music.

Six hours and another tank of gas later, Charlotte was approaching Cheyenne, Wyoming. She’d never been to Wyoming before. It was nearly 10 pm and Charlotte was feeling very tired. She pulled off when she got to the city and found a hotel to crash in for the night.

Charlotte woke up just after seven the following morning. She felt so tired from the past two days of driving, but she was anxious to get to her destination. She took a quick shower to wake herself up and grabbed some continental breakfast on her way out. She tossed yesterday’s clothes in the backseat. She found a gas station where she filled up on gas and got herself some water.

Sitting in her car at the gas station, Charlotte started thinking again about calling her mom and Melanie to let them know what she had done. She was supposed to go over to Melanie’s two nights ago and never let her know she wasn’t coming. Melanie had to be worried about her. Ryan would have expected some form of communication from her, too. She leaned forward and rested her head on the steering wheel trying to decide what she should do.

Charlotte jumped as two loud knocks came at her window. She looked to see a huge man with a bushy beard leaned over her window. Her eyes widened and she thought about locking the doors. He smiled at her and smiling, looked friendly enough for her to open her window a crack.

“Won’t your car start?” He asked her.

Confused at his question, Charlotte looked blankly at him.

“You’ve been sitting her a while and with your head laid down, thought maybe your car wouldn’t start.”

“Oh!” Charlotte finally put the pieces together. “No, I was just thinking. I’ve been on the road for two days and I’m tired.”

“Two days!” the man exclaimed. “Where ya from?”

“Pittsburgh.” Charlotte replied. “I lost my job and so I’m heading to Portland.”

“Portland, eh? That’s another good 16 hours or so from here. My daughter lives there.” The man stood up and stepped away from her car. “I suppose I better let you get going. Glad everything’s alright with your car. Good luck in Portland.”

Stay! Charlotte wanted scream at him. It felt so nice to talk to someone. She hadn’t talked to anyone but the hotel check in staff for two days. The last time she talked to someone, it was the security guards escorting her off her old company’s premises and that wasn’t exactly a conversation to remember.

Charlotte sighed and pulled back onto the freeway. It was only then that she remembered she was going to get out and look for her phone. She needed to remember to bring the bags into her hotel tonight so she could look for it. Or maybe she’d just wait until she got to Portland. Then she could unpack in her hotel and gather her thoughts and plans then. Besides, she would have to charge her phone anyway.

Charlotte switched her brain into movie mode. She spent the next hours imagining her life as movie – how it would play out, who would play her, who would play Melanie and Ryan. She picked out the soundtrack and the camera angles. This make believe helped the hours to pass more quickly. She felt that it hadn’t been that long since she last stopped for food or gas to use the bathroom. Maybe Charlotte should try to be a director! She had no idea how to go about doing that, but she figured there had to be a way and she could do it.

It was 54 miles to Boise and nearly 9 pm. Charlotte decided she would stop there for the night, especially since the last two hours had dragged by. It felt like she was never going to get anywhere! Charlotte had seriously questioned what she was doing. For the first time this entire trip, she felt like she was making a HUGE mistake. She felt like she had made this decision foolishly. She should have called Melanie to talk about it. She should have confronted Ryan and not just left a note. She should have called her mom. She should have fought harder for her job. She should have done a lot of things. Now, here she was, a few hours from Portland. She was almost there. Three full days of driving and who knows how many more hours tomorrow. If she had planned better, maybe she would have flown in. Of course, plane tickets are super expensive and she wanted to leave now. She wanted to start over, to start fresh.

As Charlotte thought about her desire to start over, she began to feel confident about her decision again. This was her chance to break out and show everyone that she can be responsible and that she doesn’t need someone to watch out for her or take care of her or make plans for her. She was an adult and she would prove it.

Finally, Charlotte reached Boise. She was absolutely spent. By the time she got to her room, it was 10:30. She walked over to the bed, crawled under the covers, and slept.

***

 

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