Dreams by Don McColl
“For the love of God - DO NOT…SIGN…ANYTHING!” Victoria hissed at her husband as they crossed the hotel lobby. Distant windows teased bright sunshine and the dapple of cool water but first…the pitch.
“Why do you always talk to me like I’m stupid?” Toby whined, “I’m not stupid! I know the score. Don’t tell them anything, don’t sign anything, don’t let them know the card is in here.” He tapped the inside-left pocket of his new jacket; tan, tailored and two sizes too small. He’d only been measured up 3 months ago.
“Tobias Cartwright! Put that hand down right now!” Victoria gave the tiniest tilt of her head towards the grinning throng of greeters ahead. “They can see you! I can’t believe you brought it! Give it to me!”
Toby dropped his hand with a start, but then raised it back to his chest and patted his wallet reassuringly. “No! It’s my money, I decide.” he whispered slowly, and glanced sideways at his wife. “Anyway, we’re not buying anything. We just have to listen.”
Victoria pursed her lips and nodded. It was his money. An unlucky accident at work had resulted in a small section of his brain being removed. The court had valued that small section of his brain much more highly than Toby ever had. So now they had money, and now that they had money, people seemed to want to give them everything for free.
Worried, Victoria twined her fingers in his and gave a good squeeze. “Ok love, just be careful, will you? I’ve heard they make it really hard to say no…and your temper has been awful quick since…you know…why don’t we just go pay for the room ourselves and skip all this…” she waved her other hand at the pack of sales-teeth in front of them. Periodically one would split from the group to hunt down tubby couples migrating toward the conference centre. It was already too late; a beaming face loped alongside and forcefully made their acquaintance.
“Howdy folks! Welcome, welcome! My name is Randy. You two look like soooo much fun! Enjoying the sun today? How about that breakfast buffet? I can hardly move. Would you like a coffee? The beans are grown right here on the island! There’s a legend here…”Randy continued on and on about coffee beans and kings. Victoria and Toby nodded and smiled as they sipped coffee and were shepherded closer and closer to the wide maw of the presentation hall.
The coffee was a mistake, Victoria mused to herself after the hours-long presentation. She had popped to the loo for only a few minutes but when she returned, Toby was gone. Kidnapped for a one-on-one ‘feedback’ session, she’d been told by her very own ‘opportunity consultant’.
“Don’t you deserve to be happy, Vicky?”
Vicky. She hadn’t been Vicky for years. Not since qualifying as a midwife. She felt that people didn’t really want a Vicky knee deep in a birthing pool, catching their poo in a net. After spending a while as a companion and guardian to mothers in their happiest and hardest of times, and supplying a shoulder to others in the very worst of nightmares; she had become Victoria. A little less bouncy, but a little more kind than Vicky. A few more wrinkles, a few more tears.
“Why should you wait, Vicky? Why shouldn’t you have what you want right now?”
Victoria’s attention returned to the girl in front of her. What did she want? She was sure it didn’t include sitting in the draft of an AC vent, while an over-enthusiastic child tried to hard-sell her into opportunity. She thought of Toby and his mood swings, and the nights lay staring into the darkness wondering if he was still the man she married. Bah, she hoped not! Nor was she the same woman. He had married Vicky. She may not have lost part of herself in quite the same way that he had, but she had lost, so many times. All those hopeful weeks, hands on her tummy, waiting for the miracle; and then the tears and the shame, and the trying again.
Victoria reached across the table, and grasped both of the girls hands in hers. Loudly, forcefully, fully resolute she exclaimed,
“I don’t want to buy anything!”
The girl’s eyes opened wide and stunned into silence she slowly blinked. Blink.
“Well, you’re in luck, Victoria” a warm voice behind her crowed. “We don’t sell things.” Victoria’s stomach sank as she twisted round. A well-dressed man sauntered across the room with his tanned arm squeezed tight around her husband’s shoulders. He turned to his new friend, “What do we sell, Toby?”
Toby smiled beatifically, with a joy only a man missing part of his brain can summon.