Blue Lady's MISSION under FIRE
"IT'S SO SWEET OF YOU TO ASK"
"Welcome to Busboys and Poets. I hope this table works for you. Jason will be your server tonight and will be right over. Enjoy your evening."
Beckham Johnson, my mentor and head of the Small Town Violence project lightly tapped my bare shoulders as I eased into the cushioned chair. What a gentleman. Forget you Shawn Mallory. I'm glad I settled on the white off-the-shoulder sheath. I smile as I think of the two hours I spent in Black Market White House that took a chunk out of my already tight schedule. Looks like my time was well spent!
Beckham's crisp white linen shirt--open at the neck--and creased black slacks showcased a side of him I hadn't seen before. Hmmm, I like it. Apparently so did half the other women who eyeballed him as they sipped their happy hour cocktails.
I had called Beckham as soon as I checked into Embassy Suites yesterday. It's one of my favorite hotels and I always stay there when in DC. When Beckham told me he planned to hold the team briefing meetings at the Embassy on 10th Street, it was a no brainer for me. I booked the room for a week, just enough time for our already scheduled three-day briefing sessions and a few days for me to flesh out my project work schedule and rest up before hitting the road.
Planning and organizing is my thing. I'm good at it. I love what I do. And, I'm super hyped to be back in DC only a few blocks from the White House and Department of Justice. I assume that Beckham has blocked out some time for us to talk to the DOJ team overseeing our demonstration project.
"So how are you, Angelica? Are you settled in?"
"I'm fine. Excited, actually. How are you? You ready for tomorrow? What can I do to help?" I was eager to get a handle on where Beckham wanted the project to go. I've learned the hard way that this is critical to managing a project. The worst thing you can do is let a project evolve only to find out the path is totally inconsistent with management goals. Yep, he's taught me well.
"Slow down, Blue Lady. Relax. You look very nice, by the way."
Beckham's soft voice worked it's magic and reminded me of the first time he called me Blue Lady. I'll never forget it. I was heated when one of my colleagues opposed some language in the final draft of my pride and joy white paper on Immigration Reform. She'd reviewed the first four working drafts without comment. A final draft was not the time. Not with my tight publication schedule. In the middle of my pace the floor, spin, pace in the opposite direction, spin monologue, Beckham all but whispered, “Calm down Blue Lady, let's let Myra explain.”
In eight words, he accomplished what my University of Georgia trained diction failed to do: he had everyone's attention. And now so did she...as eyes shifted from Beckham to her. From me to Myra. Back to Beckham. And then again, to me. Yes, me, Angelica Mason who never fails to have a word, a comment, a retort, a reprise--for once was silent.
I assumed for years that my signature blue sapphire accessories were the basis for what had become my DC alias THE BLUE LADY. Hmmph! How was I to know that the Blue Lady is a rare orchid recognizable by its intense shade of blue. Whenever I think about this life changing episode, I wonder if Beckham has ever even noticed my sapphire jewelry.
I grin and nod. "So, you remember?"
"Of course, I do. I'll never forget it." He winked.
Did he just wink?
"Me either." I wonder if my voice sounds as weak as I feel.
"No rush. I'm hoping that the two of us can get together first thing tomorrow morning to talk shop--before the team meeting. This is catch up time. You good?"
"Ready to order?" Our waiter saved us from trying to figure out where to go next. We opted to share an appetizer; shrimp and crab fritters. I order the Busboys House Salad and was a little surprised that Beckham ordered the vegetable curry. I decided not to ask, "When did you become a vegetarian?" He also ordered a bottle of French champagne "to celebrate our reunion." I know nothing about champagne but based on the waiter's raised eyebrow, I assume his selection is special.
"How's your father? Is he recovering well?"
"He is. Thank you for asking." I add without thinking if through, "It's so sweet of you to ask." Oh God, where did that come from? I hope my face is not as flushed as it feels. After a couple of sips of water, I continue.
"Actually, when I told him about the project, he invited himself to come up for a weekend. Dinner and a trip to the new African American Museum. I hear it's quite impressive and it's definitely on my list of things to do but don't know if I'll have time to fit it in this trip. I told him I'd get back to him after the briefing."
"Makes sense...I'm glad he's doing well."
"Thanks Beck...oops, I assume I can call you that, right? I mean, not in public, but..." I sound like a high school freshman on a first date. What's up with me?
He rewards me with three dimples. The ever present deep-centered one in his chin. And two equally delightful ones nicely positioned at the creases of his speak-no-evil, smooth lips.
As the waiter pours our champagne, our conversation fizzles.
Wow, I never realized that Beckham's hair is so curly. As though he's reading my thoughts, his right hand smoothes a couple of disobedient curls that refuse to lay flat despite his barber's intent. He interrupts my run away thoughts.
"Let's toast, Blue Lady."
He raises his goblet. I raise mine. Afraid of what I might say, I defer to him on this one. I've learned the hard way that it never hurts to step back and let a gentleman be a gentleman.
I tap his goblet and let my eyes speak for me...
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