“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.…
She chuckled. “Of course we’ll take some selfies…
Okay, I gotta get ready. Love you…”
After sliding into her best satin underwear, Gracie checked out her smooth lines in the mirror. Her confidence rose a notch. Then she started on her hair with a brush in one hand and the blow dryer in the other. Drying and styling with practiced moves, she was nearly finished when Bailey returned.
Bailey added her first layer of clothing and stood by Gracie as she finished. “You have great hair, Gracie. I almost wish I was blonde too.”
“You’re a knock-out with your naturally wavy dark hair and that heart-shaped face. I’ve watched all these guys check you out from the moment we met. Always you first. Like Sean.”
“He’s pretty cute and in all our classes. But he’s a flirt who ignores no, in any form. Heck, on our coffee date when he expected more, he showed me we had zero future. You said he was self-centered. You were right. My parents taught me to not mistake blarney as sincerity regardless of the spoken and unspoken language. We’re the best roomies.”
“Yep. He’s a piece of work. He and Ian present after us. He won’t realize he lost already.” She laughed. “Not after our amazing presentation. No way they can win.” She passed the handle. “Here’s the dryer. I’ll do my makeup and then get dressed. I’m so excited.”
“I’ve got butterflies so bad, Gracie. We get breakfast after our preso, right?”
“That’s the plan. Besides, I’m too nervous to eat.”
Makeup applied, hair fixed in similar styles, and clothes perfect, Bailey and Gracie checked themselves in the mirror. Gracie did a slight turn and peered over her shoulder with a quick smile. “We are professional business women, dressed for the part.”
Their images appeared together in the mirror and they grinned. “Seriously professional.” Bailey added with a nod. “One blonde, the other brunette.”
They hip-bumped and high-fived one another. “Quick, I promised my mom we’d snag selfies.”
They each snapped shots of one another.
Gracie scrolled her photos to text to her mom.
“Gracie, how did you get the shot of me?” Bailey asked while she watched over her friend’s shoulder. “I looked at the group of pics you’re sending your mom.”
Gracie shrugged, then chortled. “You sent it to me right after you took it. Boy, you must be nervous. Come on, girlfriend.” Gracie hid her guilt with practiced facial control and gently patted Bailey’s shoulder. After these many months at school, Gracie hoped her remote snooping of Bailey’s phone would not get discovered.
“You’re right; I must be. I don’t remember.” She opened her phone, saw the clock, and found the photo she sent in a text message. Giving her head a quick shake, she grabbed her laptop and nervously laughed. “We’re right on time. Let’s do this.”
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