Teresa felt her eyes burn and heat rise up her neck from under her best and most flattering suit.  She had hoped for a spotlight of attention.  Instead, she shone in a spotlight of sunshine from the overhead skylight.  The productive banter she had rehearsed was left mid-stream on her lips, as the CEO, she was courting, abruptly turned his back on her in mid-sentence.  Suddenly mute, she absorbed the sight of the CEO’s animated conversation with the young man just introduced to him.  Within seconds, she turned to search for the nearest exit from the conference center.

Would they even notice, if I flew up into the air and broke through the skylight?

Sunlight glinted from tears forming in, but not yet flowing from her eyes.  Once she got her bearings to leave, she loped away certain that the snub did not register at all with the other professionals milling around outside the meeting rooms.  But, she was wrong.  There was someone watching her.  Waiting.  And, planning.

Well, what did I expect?  At first, she guided her self-talk to be as professional, as possible.  Then, riding on the down escalator towards the registration area, she found her anger.

Bullshit.  He knew exactly what he was doing.  He did brush me off.  OK.  Decision made.  Time to act.  No more delays.

As she walked to the exit, one of the registration clerks waved her over to the registration booth.  As she approached the clerk, her rage dissipated at the sight of the woman’s warm smile.

“I’m so glad to see you’re still here.  Is it everything you thought it would be?”

“And, then some,” Teresa remarked with a well-practiced grin.  “I’m glad to see at least your friendly face.”

“That good?  You’re not leaving early are you?”  The clerk said with a bit of disappointment in her youthful voice.

“After this morning and the luncheon, I’ve had enough.  This afternoon seems like a good time to catch up with people I know in the city.”

“Well, have a good afternoon.  Will we see you at the dinner tonight?” asked the woman with a hopeful look.

“It depends,” said Teresa who turned to gaze out the convention center windows.

“If not tonight, then I hope to see you tomorrow,” said the clerk hoping to get Teresa’s attention away from the window.

Teresa smiled a practiced grin, then turned and responded to the woman.

“Well, maybe I’ll see you tomorrow,” said Teresa.  As she walked towards the automatic glass doors, she wondered, Was she flirting with me?  That’s a first!

The convention center’s hotel doors opened onto the valet car drop off.  As Teresa talked with the valet, the registration clerk continued watching her through the windows.  The clerk texted her contact that Teresa was outside picking up her rental car and, most likely, would not be returning that evening.

A black sedan rolled to a stop in front of Teresa.  A young valet leapt out of the car to hold the door open for her.  She handed her a tip, settled in behind the steering wheel, and placed her designer handbag on the passenger seat.  As she adjusted the rearview mirror, the rear passenger door flew open and a heavy person got into her car.  Teresa could feel the car dip.

Page one excerpt from Road Noise Short Stories To Thrill and Chill  2016 © Belinda A. Allen

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