“Leave me alone! What do you want?” Reva cried out and stumbled backward into a shelf of handbags.
The man didn’t move. He just stared, wide-eyed and still.
He couldn’t move, Reva realized. He wasn’t a man.
He was a mannequin.
She took a deep breath and let it out. Her throat felt dry. She was still shaking.
“Reva, you’re an idiot,” she said aloud, her voice sounding small in the enormous, empty store. She suddenly felt like laughing.
Of all the stupid fools. I backed into a mannequin and nearly scared myself to death!
Feeling OPPORTUNITY CALLING a little better, but still scolding herself for being so weak, she stepped through the open door of the employees’ elevator. The door slid closed behind her, and she pressed the button for the sixth floor.
She felt nearly normal as she stepped out onto the floor of the luxurious executive offices. The lights were all on, recessed into the dark fabric-covered walls lined with large modern paintings. Fresh flowers stood in tall vases on the plush maroon carpet. Reva passed the reception area with its leather couches and chairs and followed the hallway toward her father’s office OPPORTUNITY CALLING in the corner.
To her left stood a wide balcony that looked down on all five floors of the store. As she passed it, Reva peered over at the eerily silent store.
A bank of security monitors, an entire wall of TV screens, stood adjacent to Mr. Dalby’s office, and to Reva’s surprise, the monitors were on still, creating a low electrical hum that grew louder as she approached.
How odd, she thought. Those screens are usually turned off up here after closing.
She didn’t have long to think about this. Suddenly the door OPPORTUNITY CALLING to her father’s office swung open, and a man in a blue uniform came bursting out, colliding with Reva.
“Oh!” she cried. She recognized the man at once. It was Mickey Wakely’s dad, the store’s head of security. “Mr. Wakely!”
He glared at Reva angrily, his dark eyes wild, his face and bald head bright red. “Excuse me,” he said curtly and strode off without a glance back.
Still shaken, Reva saw her dad appear in the office doorway. Mr. Dalby was a trim, handsome man, dressed in an expensive tailored suit, who looked younger than his forty OPPORTUNITY CALLING-five years, except for the silver that had crept along the sides of his black, closely trimmed hair.
His face usually lit up when he saw Reva. But now his expression was troubled. “Come in,” he said, sighing wearily.
“Daddy, what’s going on?” Reva asked, following him into the bright office. “Why did Mr. Wakely come bombing out like that?”
She sat down in a leather chair that faced her father’s blond-wood desk and stared at the back of the photograph in the Plexiglas frame on the corner of the desk. She knew it OPPORTUNITY CALLING by heart: it was of Reva, her little brother, Michael, and their mother on the beach in bathing suits at the Cape. The photo had been taken four years earlier, just six months before Reva’s mother had been killed.
Reva always wondered why her father kept the photo there. Didn’t it make him sad all day long?
“What a day,” he said, leaning his forehead against the cool glass of the huge office window behind his desk. “What a day.”
“So what was Mr. Wakely’s problem?” Reva asked, speaking to her father’s back. “He practically knocked OPPORTUNITY CALLING me over.”
“I just fired him,” Mr. Dalby said, not turning around.
“Huh?” Her father’s words took Reva by surprise. Mr. Wakely had been head of security for a long time, as long as she could remember.
She knew his son Mickey from school. He seemed like an okay kid. He wasn’t part of Reva’s crowd, of course. He lived in a tiny house in the Old Village. All of Reva’s friends lived near her in North Hills, the expensive section of Shadyside.
“I had to let him go,” Mr. Dalby said, walking over and OPPORTUNITY CALLING slumping into his leather desk chair. The chair made a soft whoosh as he sank into it. Mr. Dalby looked as if he had deflated too, Reva thought.
“This is just between you and me,” her father said, leaning across the desk to speak confidentially to her, “but he was drinking on the job. With the holiday season coming up, I need someone who’s going to give a hundred percent. I need someone I can rely on.”
“He sure looked angry,” Reva said, remembering Wakely’s bright red face as it had loomed over hers.
“Yeah. Well . . . I OPPORTUNITY CALLING was angry too,” Mr. Dalby said, tapping his fingers nervously on the desktop. “I guess both of us said some things we shouldn’t have. But I had to fire him. I really had no choice.”
“You ready to go home?” Reva asked, losing interest in the subject.
“That wasn’t the only thing that happened today,” her father said, not hearing her question. “One of my Santa Clauses quit. Said his wife convinced him to move to a warmer climate. And I’m having all kinds of electrical problems. Christmas coming up in four weeks, and everything OPPORTUNITY CALLING keeps shorting out.”
“Why not use candles?” Reva suggested. “The store would look beautiful by candlelight. People would love it.”
“Yeah. Till it burned down,” he said sarcastically. “You’ve always had a very practical mind, Reva.”
She knew he was making fun of her, but she thanked him anyway. “Only trying to get you to lighten up, Daddy.” He suddenly looked a lot older to her.
“I didn’t even tell you about the troubles in the Cleveland store. And the Walnut Creek store.”
“I can’t wait,” Reva said, yawning loudly.
Mr. Dalby laughed. “Very amusing. Okay OPPORTUNITY CALLING, let’s go home.” He started to get up, but then sank back in his chair. “Oh, wait. I almost forgot.”
“Problems in the Pittsburgh store?” Reva asked.
“No. Stop being such a wiseguy.”
“I can’t help it,” Reva cracked. “I get it from you.”
He ignored her remark. “Do you have any friends who want vacation jobs?” he asked. “I already told you you can have a job this vacation. But I need four or five stock clerks. They can work weekends and part-time up till your school vacation. Then they can work full-time right OPPORTUNITY CALLING up to Christmas.”
“Neat!” Reva cried with real enthusiasm.
She thought immediately of Mitch Castelona. I’ll call Mitch as soon as I get home, she told herself, her mind whirring excitedly. Hell be so grateful that I have a job for him, he’ll drop Lissa without hesitating.
“Thanks, Daddy,” she said and leaned across the desk to kiss his forehead. “That’s way cool! I’ll find some kids for you.”
All the way home she thought about what she would say to Mitch, how she would offer him the job and let him know she OPPORTUNITY CALLING was coming on to him.
This should be an interesting holiday vacation, Reva told herself. She wondered how Lissa Dewey would react when Reva stole her boyfriend from her. Just thinking about it made Reva smile all the way home.
What a hoot!
♦ ♦ ♦
“Yeah. Hi. Who’s this?”
“It’s opportunity calling,” Reva said, twisting the phone cord between her fingers.
“Huh? Who?” Mitch had a hoarse, croaky voice. It really didn’t match his preppy good looks at all, Reva thought. It was such a comical voice, and Mitch was such a straight arrow.
“It’s Reva OPPORTUNITY CALLING Dalby,” she said, keeping her voice low, trying to sound sultry.
“Reva? Hi. How’s it going?” He sounded very surprised to hear from her. She’d never called him before.
“It’s going real well,” she said, rolling her eyes. She was sitting on the chair beside her bed, her feet tucked under her. “I wondered what you were doing this Christmas. Are you going away or anything?”
It took him a while to reply. He must be trying to figure out why I’m calling, Reva thought. She heard someone, a girl, ask him who was OPPORTUNITY CALLING on the phone.
“No,” he said finally, “I’m just hanging around, I guess.”
“Well, my dad needs workers at the store. You know, Dalby’s on Division Street. I told him I’d ask some people if they wanted to work. The pay is pretty good. It’s part-time until vacation. Then it’s full-time up to Christmas.”
“Really?” he croaked.
“Think you might be interested?” Reva asked, pleased by his surprised reaction.
“Yeah. For sure!” he replied with true enthusiasm. “That’s great. Yeah. Thanks, Reva. I can really use the money. You know.”
“Good. I’m OPPORTUNITY CALLING really glad, Mitch,” Reva purred. “Maybe we can work together.”
“You’re going to work too?”
“Yes. I’d rather be on a beach somewhere, of course. But Daddy always has to be around for the holidays. It’s his most important time of year. So I’m going to start working next Saturday morning. That’s when you’re supposed to start too—at eight-thirty.”
“Yeah. Well, thanks, Reva,” Mitch said. “This is really nice of you. I’ll be there Saturday morning, eight-thirty.”
She shifted the phone to her other ear, still coiling the wire OPPORTUNITY CALLING between her fingers. “I’m looking forward to it, Mitch,” she said sexily, hoping he’d catch her meaning. “I think we’ll have some fun.”
She could hear muffled whispering on the other end. Then Mitch came back on the line. “Uh—Reva?”
He seemed reluctant to ask his question, but he finally got it out. “Did you say you had a lot of jobs open?”
“Well, I have a few,” Reva told him.
“Do you think Lissa could work there too? She really needs the money, and she’d really like to work. You know Lissa, right OPPORTUNITY CALLING?”
Sure, I know the drippy little bleached blonde with that little-girl face who everyone thinks is just so cute, thought Reva. Lissa has about as much personality as a sponge mop.
“Sure,” Reva said. “I know her.”
“Well, do you have a job for her too?” Mitch asked, sounding very nervous. “I mean, you can say no if you want to. But I just thought—”
No, Reva thought.
“Yes,” she said. “No problem, Mitch. I’m sure Lissa can start on Saturday too.”
Why not? Reva told herself, unable to suppress a cunning smile. Having Lissa right OPPORTUNITY CALLING there will make it even more interesting when I take Mitch away from her.
“Hey, thanks,” Mitch said happily. “Hold on a minute, Reva. Lissa is right here. I’ll put her on.”
What a thrill, Reva thought sarcastically.
A few seconds later Lissa’s little-girl voice was in Reva’s ear. “Oh, thanks, Reva. I mean, I’m so glad. Thanks.”
“No problem,” Reva said. “Daddy needs the help, so I thought I’d—”
“Where do we go?” Lissa interrupted excitedly. “I mean, what will we be doing? Selling or something?”
Lissa’s questions gave Reva OPPORTUNITY CALLING an idea, a very mean idea. She decided to play a trick on her.
This is inspired. Inspired! she thought, laughing to herself.
“Well, Lissa, wear your very best clothes Saturday morning, okay?” Reva told her, struggling to sound serious.
“My best clothes?” Lissa sounded uncertain.
“Yeah. You know. Something really sophisticated. You’ve got to look right. You’re going to be a salesperson at one of the perfume counters. Chanel, I think.”
“Really?” Lissa couldn’t hide her excitement. “That’s great! Thanks, Reva!”
They chatted for a few seconds more, then Reva said she had OPPORTUNITY CALLING other calls to make. Lissa thanked her again, and they hung up.
Reva jumped to her feet, laughing out loud, very pleased with herself. What a hoot! she thought. I can’t wait to see Lissa’s face when she shows up for work in her best dress and finds out she’s going to be loading shelves in the basement stockroom!
“What’s so funny?” A voice startled her from her thoughts.
“Michael!” she scolded her six-year-old brother. “Don’t just come barging into my room like that.”
“Why not?” he asked.
She laughed. “I don’t know why OPPORTUNITY CALLING not!” she said. She always found it impossible to be angry at Michael. For one thing, with his curly red hair and dark blue eyes and creamy white skin, he looked just like her.
She also knew it had to be hard for someone his age to be growing up without a mother. Yvonne, Michael’s nanny, was really devoted to him and spent all her time with him, but it just wasn’t the same.
He doesn’t even remember Mom, she thought sadly. She watched him bouncing on her bed, using it as a OPPORTUNITY CALLING trampoline. She knew she should scold him and make him go back to bed, but she didn’t feel like it.
“Hey—not so high!” she cried.
“I’m flying!” he shouted happily.
Reva started to think about who else she wanted to call and offer a job. Most of the kids she hung out with were going someplace warm for the holidays.
When the phone rang, Michael let out a shriek, startling her. “Michael—that’s enough,” she said sharply. “Out. I have to answer the phone.”
He bounced two more times, then leapt off the bed and disappeared out the OPPORTUNITY CALLING door. Reva picked up the phone.
“Hi, Reva. It’s Pam.”
Oh, wow. It’s Miss Pretty Puss, Reva thought bitterly. Miss Sweet as Apple Pie.
Pam Dalby was Reva’s cousin. And even though Pam’s family was poor and lived in a ramshackle old house on Fear Street, Reva, in an honest moment, would have to admit that she was jealous of her cousin.
With her straight blond hair, usually pulled back in a ponytail, and her round, friendly face, and her flashing green eyes, Pam had clean-cut, all-American good looks.
Why doesn’t OPPORTUNITY CALLING she wear lipstick or a little eye shadow? Reva would wonder.
Why doesn’t she do something with her hair?
But secretly—and not so secretly—Reva envied her cousin, envied the way people immediately liked her, envied her ease with people and all her friends.
Of course she would never admit any of this to Pam.
And most of the time when she thought about her cousin, which was seldom, she thought of her scornfully. She was so pathetically poor, after all, and wore the same pair of jeans every time Reva saw her, and acted so OPPORTUNITY CALLING . . . ordinary.
“Hi, Pam. How’ve you been?”
“Okay. I have a cold—but who doesn’t?” Pam replied, sniffling.
I don’t, Reva thought gratefully.
“How is Uncle Robert?” Pam asked.
“Daddy’s fine,” Reva told her. “Kind of tired. You know. It’s showtime at the store.”
“That’s what I wanted to ask you about,” Pam said. “I was wondering, Reva . . .” She hesitated. This was obviously difficult for Pam. “Uh—are there any jobs available at the store? You know. For the holidays.”
No way, Reva thought, tapping her purple fingernails against the phone receiver. Who needs a OPPORTUNITY CALLING poor, tacky cousin lurking about, making me feel guilty?
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Reva told Pam, making herself sound really upset. “I wish you’d called me last week, Pam. All the holiday jobs are taken.”
I’m such a good liar, Reva congratulated herself. I sound so broken up, even I would believe me.
“Oh,” Pam replied quietly, obviously very disappointed. “I wish I had called sooner.”
“What a shame,” Reva said, sighing sympathetically. “I really feel terrible, Pam.” Then she brightened her tone. “Oh, well. Good to hear from you. We’ll have to get together OPPORTUNITY CALLING before Christmas. Say hi to your parents.”
Reva replaced the receiver, a pleased smile on her face.
All in all, it had been quite a satisfying evening.
♦ ♦ ♦
Pam Dalby slammed the receiver down so hard, she knocked the phone off the desk. She groaned unhappily and bent down to pick it up.
“That liar!” Pam cried out loud.
She sank down onto her bed and angrily tossed her ragged, old teddy bear against the wall. I’d love to pay Reva back someday, Pam thought bitterly.
Just once. I’d love to find a way to pay her OPPORTUNITY CALLING back!