2 ½ years ago
Gracie awoke with a start from the irritating buzzing that grew louder by the second. She rubbed her face to erase the dream that got disturbed and felt the fresh air as she flung off her covers. She heard a familiar yet nearly unintelligible mumbling as if from a cave.
“Gracie, turn off that damn noise,” the gravelly voice begged.
The buzz persisted until Gracie’s brain recognized the source, so she reached over and pushed the buttons of her phone on the nightstand. Her slender fingers reached the dim bedside lamp switch. She pressed it on and brushed sleep residue from her eyes.
Gracie stretched like a cat, pulled up the covers, and wondered how much time they had to get ready. She pulled her phone, pressed the screen to reveal the time and came to her senses about lounging around. “Oh my gosh,” she mumbled as her heart skipped a beat and her nerves ignited like she’d fallen off the edge of a cliff rather than jumped out of bed. “Bailey, get up,” she announced. “We’ve only two hours to get it together and complete set up to face the board to deliver our final. I’ll go wash up fast.” She gathered a few grooming necessities, for the short trek down the hall.
“I’m so tired,” the weary voice replied.
“I know. Me too. We prepped so late, but we’ll be fabulous. I’m glad we’re on first.” Gracie watched the lump of bedlinens move, reminding her of wrestling with her twin brother JJ under the covers when they were kids. “Tell you what, you rest until I finish my shower. Then I’m dumping you on the floor.”
The lumpy bed hiding the lithe form seemed to relax, and silence reigned.
Gracie grinned and embraced the smallest increase of light peeking through the wooden blinds she twisted open, proclaiming morning. Hoping the sun would rise early and fog delay until later, she yawned. She caught sight of their matching suits hanging on the closet door frame and pictured them polished and ready for success. They knew one critical element of their final presentation included professional appearance and behavior. She silently gave thanks to her mom, who located the smartly tailored suits, complementary silk blouses, and low-heeled leather pumps. After sixteen grueling months of focused study in the advanced dual degree program at Mary Immaculate College in Ireland, it was thrilling to reach graduation.
Grabbing her towel and toiletries, she dashed out the door. The dorm hallway would remain silent from the rest of the students for at least another hour. That was the reason for the first slot—no contention for the bathroom. Five minutes and the water warmed enough to stop her shivering. She shampooed, rinsed, and stepped out of the white tiled enclosure. Gracie vigorously rubbed her body dry and used the second towel to wrap her light blonde hair. Seeing bright eyes reflected from the slightly steamy mirror, she saluted her image and hurriedly returned to the shared room.
“Bailey,” she called. “The water’s warm, so get a move on, sister.” The lump moved slightly, but Gracie remained unconvinced of the needed follow through. “Ya got till five. One. Two. Three.”
The covers flew and landed on the floor as her roommate launched herself to her full height with her thick wavy mane of dark auburn hair framing her oval face. “Okay. I’m awake. Stop counting.” She grinned. “Thanks for getting the water warm. I’ll be right back.”
Gracie’s phone rang. “Hi, Mom…Yes, I’m up and showered. Bailey’s there now. We’re going to be ready and arrive ten minutes early…I know we’ll win. We practiced every contingency last night, and Bailey’s heart is set on bringing home the trophy….” She drew underwear and stockings from the top drawer of her dresser.
“Our combined marketing and international findings, from the extensive survey we completed, and detailed return-on-investment proof points, will knock their socks off. There are two foreign board members, one from Japan and one from France. Bailey will deliver a portion in Japanese, and I’ll do some in French…Yes, ma’am, I know you’ll be listening and cheering for us. Thank you for letting me attend this school and find Bailey. She’s my best friend, outside of my family.…
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