Even after five years of getting up hours before any sensible person would willingly be awake, let alone be at work, Becky sometimes suspects that the stress it puts on her body is too much and that she is actually losing her mind, coming apart at the seams.
When Becky walks into her office at 4:45am on a Wednesday morning, and finds every surface that will stand still covered in roses as red as the gaudy nail polish her mother loves so much…she isn’t sure what to think.
Becky nearly jumps out of her skin.
Lenny holds up his hands, as if to calm a dangerous animal.
Becky shakes her head, feeling silly. “Sorry, I…”
“I’m assuming your biggest fan is the culprit?”
“Excuse me?” Becky squeaks.
Lenny smiles. “Your gentlemen friend, Mr. Bennett…?”
“I…I don’t know,” Becky wonders why that wasn’t her first thought. “It makes sense, though, right? For the man I’m seeing to send me flowers? So many flowers that they fill up my entire office…”
The roses are on the desk, on her book shelves, on the couch, on the floor…they’re even in the sink. Not in vases, or even in bunches. Laid out flat, loose petals everywhere, their stems criss-crossing each other, like they’re leading her somewhere…
It’s just the type of ridiculous, sweeping gesture that usually only happen in movies or in the combined imaginations of women the world over.
My mother would be swooning right now, Becky realises. But all Becky feels is...confused.
Lenny gives her this sideways look and Becky fidgets. Becky liked Lenny from the get go – he was so pleasant, so supportive, despite her age and inexperience and propensity to ramble – but he hides a sharp mind behind a façade of seemingly numb decency better than anyone she's ever met.
"Of course it does," Lenny says after a moment so long that Becky has almost forgotten the question he’s answering. He is smiling at her again, his eyes kind. He’s patiently waiting for her to get herself together, as always. Becky can almost–
"Oh. My. God!"
Becky rolls her eyes; it really is too early for this. Even Lenny cannot completely hide his cringe.
“I looooove roses!” Lisa shrieks. “Where’d they all come from? Is it that delicious producorial guy from upstairs?”
Still has some work to do with that dictionary, I see…Becky thinks.
“He’s gorrrrrrrr-geous!” Lisa continues.
“Er, yes…” Becky replies. As in, yes, he is gorgeous, not yes, he did send the flowers…but it’s too late.
Lisa has already launched herself into the main floor of the Daybreak offices, squealing to any and all about Becky’s boyfriend’s amazing taste in flowers. Wolf whistles and coos follow Lisa’s announcement, while Colleen rushes over to Becky’s side to offer sage relationship advice.
Lenny merely looks dumbstruck, obviously running back over the recent sequence of events in his mind, hoping to find out how they arrived at this conclusion.
“Oh, my first husband was rubbish at this sort of thing…at any sort of thing, really!” Colleen is still chattering away. “But the second one certainly knew how to pick good flowers, chocolates, jewellery…”
Becky looks at the ground, hoping it will open up and swallow her whole.
Naturally, it is right at this moment of utter chaos that Mike Pomeroy strides into the office, his face an almost perfect mirror of Lenny’s. “What the hell is all this ruckus about?” Mike thunders.
“Adam Bennett sent Becky flowers!” Lisa cries, rushing over and grabbing Mike’s arm, much to his obvious alarm. “And not just a bunch of flowers…a whole room full of flowers, Michael!” She's insisted on calling him 'Michael' since her Celebrity Names segment a few weeks before. She swears it sounds “more impressorial” than ‘Mike’.
There is a long pause. “Flowers?”
“Red roses!” A chorus of wistful female sighs ricochet off the office walls. “Isn’t that romantic?!”
Becky risks looking up out of the corner of her eye. Mike looks…
She isn’t quite sure.
“Señor Dipshit?” Mike sneers. “I thought you got bored of him?” he asks, looking directly at Becky.
The reaction is instant and terrible.
“Oh. My. GOD! “
“You broke up with him?”
Jesus, is all Becky can think. It’s going to be a long day.
What Mike said wasn’t quite the truth…Becky and Adam were bubbling along just fine, thank you very much. He was nothing short of wonderful. If she had conjured him to life via her deepest-buried fantasies and sheer willpower, he couldn’t be more perfect. He was good-looking, smart, driven, funny, affectionate, supportive…
The romantic in her loved it.
The cynic in her was permanently suspicious that he was hiding some terrible, dark secret that was waiting to spring forth from the shadows at the most inopportune moment possible, like some sort of feral, man-eating beast.
Surely there had to be something wrong with him? Like that he was rude to interns or was addicted to gambling or was secretly married…?
“Is the pungent floral fragrance wafting around in here interrupting your concentration?”
Becky didn’t look up, but she couldn’t help but smile. “Nowhere near as much as you are.”
“I aim to please,” Mike says, sounding far too delighted with himself.
“Has that twenty-five years you have on me has done anything at all for your maturity level?”
“Nothing whatsoever,” Mike says jovially, sitting down across from her and picking up the nameplate off her desk, twirling it between his fingers.
Becky folds her hands in front of her and looks at Mike expectantly. He very rarely shows up in her office unannounced and Mike’s deliberately noisy, scene-stealing entrance would make Elizabeth Taylor proud.
But Mike seems fascinated by the nameplate in his hands. “Did your parents really only christen you ‘Becky’ and not ‘Rebecca?’”
Becky looks at him blankly. “Er…”
“I won’t tell Lisa,” Mike says.
“How terribly kind of you, Michael,” Becky drawls.
“The only people who ever call me ‘Michael’ are my parents,” he says airily, and Becky’s jaw nearly hits her desk.
He’s sharing personal details? With me? Becky is baffled, and becoming more so by the moment. “When…when you’re in trouble?”
“No one can scold me as well as you, Rebecca,” Mike laughs.
“I aim to please,” Becky replies, parroting him.
Mike just smiles, and continues to twist her name plate around in his hands, his eyes following the glints the smooth silver surface pick up under the lights.
“Er…” Becky says again. “Is there something I can help you with, Mike?”
Mike looks up, pulling one of the ridiculous faces that he is famed for. “I can’t just pop by for a visit?” Mike asks, feigning hurt. “I’ve heard nothing all morning but the romance-novel-devouring women that populate this office going on and on about the absolutlely bee-yoo-tee-ful roses in your office, and I can’t even drop be to have a look myself?”
Becky rolls her eyes. “Well, you missed the full display,” she says. “They were literally all over the desk and the shelves and my chair and even the floor when I got here.”
Becky can’t help but smile, now that she thinks about it. It would have taken the perpetrator a good hour at least to lay the flowers and petals all around her office in such organised chaos. “The janitors offered to sweep them up for me,” Becky says, reaching out to touch the smooth petals that are still strewn between her keyboard and her monitor. “But they were too beautiful to go into the bin. I’ve put them in bunches.” She motions around the room, where more than a dozen vases of varying shapes, sizes and materials now sit, holding the hundreds of roses that brightened Becky’s morning.
“They’re all in full bloom,” Mike says, his voice taking that strange, quiet tone Becky rarely hears. He leans forward and gently touching the roses that sit in the centre of her desk, in the most beautiful vase Becky could find. “Do you like them?”
Becky looks up. “The roses?” When the expected Pomeroy parry is not forthcoming – to her surprise – Becky replies, “Of course. They’re a lovely gift, and he took a lot of care in setting it all up.”
Mike stops. “Who did?”
Becky laughs…nervously. “Adam.”
Mike looks at her for a long moment. “Of course,” he says quietly. “I’m glad Señor Dipshit has finally got his act together.”
“Er…well, he didn’t leave a card or anything…”
“Becky!” Lenny appears at the door. “Oh, hi, Mike,” he says distractedly. “Becky, Jerry’s here to see you. Something about wanting to see if the stories about your secret admirer leaving your office strewn with 24-carat gold jewellery this morning is accurate?”
“Becky!” Jerry says, sweeping into her office with more drama than even Mike could muster. “My God, girl, you’re your own headline this morning! The whole building is talking about…”
Becky sits there in stunned silence.
It’s not until a few minutes – and three more network executives – later that Becky notices Mike has slipped away.
When Becky was a little girl, before her father got really sick, she would sit on his lap in the living room and watch the news. As Walter Cronkite, Charlie Gibson, Tom Brokaw and a very young, recently promoted Mike Pomeroy showed her the world, her father would tell her how important journalism was to the world.
“They are the closest things we have now to guardians of any sort of truth,” he would say, his gentle Irish lilt soothing to her ears like a balm. “Because if there’s one certainty in this world, it’s that disappointment is always just around the corner.”
How true that is, Becky thinks as she sits at her desk later that day.
“I wish I could claim credit for all this, Becky,” Adam is saying, his voice – usually a comfort to her – taking all her dreams and ideals and assumptions and twisting them into an ugly, foreign shape she doesn’t recognise. “It’s amazing! But…it wasn’t me.”
“It…it wasn’t you?”
Adam looks down at the floor. “No.”
“Then, who…who else would do this?”
“Who else would do this?” Becky knows she’s making him feel awkward, but at the moment she almost doesn’t care. Just once…just this once, I thought it might be my turn…she finds herself thinking. “Is it a practical joke?”
Adam looks horrified. “I’m sure that’s not it!” he cries. “Maybe you have a secret admirer? I know for a fact that most of the men in this building think you’re pretty amazing,” Adam says, smiling his perfect smile and looking terribly pleased with himself for being the man Becky chooses to have on her arm.
Becky smiles back; she wouldn’t be human if she weren’t pleased at his words. “I’ve never had a secret admirer before,” she says quietly.
“I’m sure you have,” Adam says. “They just didn’t cover every surface of your office in rose petals.”
“Would you like to grab an early dinner?” Adam asks gently, cutting across her thoughts. “I’m done for the day, and I know you like your sleep…”
He holds out his hand.
Becky takes it.