Overwhelmed with disbelief, I felt an unrecognizable wave of relief over what had just happened. This may have been a blessing in disguise. I was happy with my work, but I never felt satisfied. Over the years, I would scroll through the vacancies on job boards posted with The New York Times, TIME magazine, and the Wall Street Journal. Despite my success in academic publishing, I felt embarrassed to send my resume to a news media publication. I hadn’t been able to take a vacation that did not require me to be fully accessible, twenty-four seven, in the 5 years I had been employed by Bianca. The mere thought of taking a trip overseas made me emotional. “I am free,” I said under my breath.
The cab driver looked at me in his review mirror and said, “Excuse me, ma’am? Did you say something?”
“Yes, I am free!” I chuckled to myself.
“…Well, we are in America, ma’am. It is a free country,” the driver’s Irish accent was thick just like his red mustache.
As I got out of the cab, I gave the driver a $100 bill and said, “In honor of my liberation, please keep the change and keep smiling, sir!” I walked into the café and Sophia rushed to me and pulled me into an embrace.
“Oh my God, Gigi! Tell me everything.”
“Sophia! I was sad and throwing myself a pity party for about 10 minutes then I realized, I am free!”
Sophia raised an eyebrow, “Ok, who are you and what have you done with my workaholic bestie?”
I laughed and hugged Sophia again, “I … I don’t even know where to begin,” I trailed off. The waiter was 10 feet away from the table when Sophia snapped her fingers and said, “Waiter! 3 glasses of your house Riesling and a sample platter of your macaroons.”
“3 glasses? Sophie, it’s 8:00am.”
“I know, I just can’t handle your stress and since you don’t drink, I’m drinking your serving.”
The waiter approached the table and said, “Ma’am, we don’t serve alcohol before noon.”
Sophia snapped, “Well, looks like today, you are! And don’t forget the round of water.”
I leaned my head back and laughed until my stomach ached.
“Oh, Sophia, I needed a good laugh. Thank you.”
Sophia smiled and leaned over the table to hold my hand, “I miss hearing you laugh. Now, tell me what happened and where are we going for our post-break up vacation?”
I decided to walk home after my meet up with her. I never enjoyed a leisurely stroll during working hours. For the first time in years, I walked at a steady pace. No thoughts of deadlines and emails bogged down my mind. I decided to use my upcoming trip to Italy as a vacation — one I had not taken since I started working for Bianca. The thought of pure relaxation felt foreign to me. I decided to not tell my family about the news until I was with them, in person. My mother would be saddened but hopeful about the possibility of me moving back home. Maybe an extended time at home would rejuvenate me. After all, I had not spent more than 2 weeks collectively on vacation, in over 5 years. ‘Maybe I’ll visit friends in London and Paris. I haven’t seen them in so long,’ I thought to myself.
As I casually walked the streets of Santa Monica, I stopped at the newsstand to browse the latest headlines. ‘Ok world, what’s happening other than who is wearing the latest seasonal color palette?’ Suddenly, my attention was drawn to one headline in particular: High Power Editor Exposes Ex-Billionaire Boyfriend’s Cheating Scandal. A photo of Bianca took up 1/3 of the front page. “What!” I screamed to myself.
The man at the newsstand saw what I was looking at and said, “Yeah, it’s been buzzing all morning! Apparently she’s been boinking this married dude for years and now she’s talking.” Confused, and suddenly hit with nausea, I grabbed a copy of the newspaper and hurriedly started reading the article.
As I started reading, my phone started ringing. It was Nadia.
“Hey, love. Have you heard the news? I am so sorry. You must be dealing with a firestorm at work.”
“Actually, I got fired this morning,” I replied.
“Oh… Well, this may explain it. Are you ok? Where are you? Do you want to meet for lunch? You shouldn’t be alone. I can take a half day and meet you in 15.”
“I’d love to see you, Nads. I just don’t want to interrupt your work. I’m trying to figure out what happened. It’s so random. It doesn’t sound like Bianca,” my voice trailed off.
“A lying, cheating, and devious wench has a decade-long affair with a married man. That doesn’t sound like Bianca? Ok, I’m definitely meeting you. I’ll pick up lunch and meet you at our place. See you in about 30 minutes.”
“Thank you, Nads.” As I hung up, my phone buzzed with dozens of text messages and email notifications. I turned back to the newsstand and bought every magazine and newspaper covering the story.