Zera and the Green Man: Chapter Eleven

“I thought they’d have a chauffeur waiting for us when we got off the plane,” Tiffany complained, “with a sign saying, ‘Void Corporation for Mr. Theodore Green.’” Her eyes searched the crowd. “I don’t get this. I suppose we should go get our luggage.”

Theodore’s gut clenched. She was anxious, and so was he, but here she was, as usual, Tiffany worrying about Tiffany. She’d even changed clothes in the plane while making several passengers wait to use the bathroom. You’d think she was the one getting a new career.

Theodore shrugged. “We just got off the plane a minute ago. There are hundreds of people here, let’s just . . .”

“Mr. Green and Ms. Taylor, I presume?”

A tall man with dark hair and green eyes moved toward them and all the females in the vicinity turned his way. Thanks to Tiffany’s ongoing fashion lessons (lessons Theodore didn’t have an interest in but nevertheless learned from), Theodore noticed that the man wore a very expensive Italian designer suit. He stopped in front of them. Tiffany’s eyes were glued to this man. She looked flustered and one hand flew up to her chin for a moment. Although Theodore didn’t usually notice what other men looked like, he knew one thing from the female five-alarm reaction around him — this one was very handsome.

Before Theodore could answer, Tiffany threw back her shoulders and beamed, “Yes! We are Mr. Green and Ms. Taylor, I mean.”

The man extended a muscular hand. “I’m Langston Void.”

“Pleased to meet you, sir,” said Theodore, shaking it. “This is my girlfriend, Tiffany Taylor.”

Void took Tiffany’s hand and brought it to his lips, bestowing a kiss. “Ms. Taylor.”

Theodore adjusted his glasses. That’s a little weird. He could tell Tiffany didn’t mind. Her makeup did little to hide the genuine flush now staining her cheeks.

“I’m so pleased to meet you!” she gushed. “Theodore told me all about you. Please call me Tiffany.”

“What a lovely name. Just like the jewelry store.”

“That’s where it came from.” A girly giggle burbled out of her.

Void appeared not to notice. “Please, both of you, call me Langston,” he said warmly. “Let’s pick up your luggage. Our limousine is waiting. I’ll be escorting you to your room at The Grand, where you two can freshen up before dinner at The Posh.”

As they followed him outside, Tiffany grabbed Theodore’s hand and squeezed it. “Don’t you think he looks like a famous movie star, Theodore?” she whispered. “Can you believe it — a limo, The Grand, The Posh? This is like a dream.”

Sure isn’t Biotech International, thought Theodore. He was quite pleased that the CEO of Void Chemical Corporation had come out personally to meet him.

*     *     *     *     *

Thirty minutes later they arrived at their suite on the top floor of The Grand. Gilded and silk-upholstered furniture, crystal chandeliers, and marble fireplaces decorated the suite, and on the balcony was a fountain — with not one, not two, but three peeing cherubs. A satin-bow wrapped box of chocolates sat on the coffee table, compliments of Void Chemical Corporation.

Tiffany ran through the rooms, exclaiming over the toiletries, “They’re full size!” the fake flowers, “Gorgeous! And they smell like those samples you get in magazines!” the fully-stocked wet bar, “They even have Skinny 2000 — can you believe it?” and the box of chocolates in their white satin box, “Modiva! The most expensive chocolates in the world!”

Minutes later, as they stood on the balcony looking at the city skyline, Tiffany sighed deeply, her lips pulled down in a kittenish sulk. “Teddy, I’m worried. I don’t know if my clothes are going to be, well, good enough for dinner at The Posh.”

Theodore fumbled in the breast pocket of his jacket and pulled out a small gold-colored envelope. “Langston gave me this in the limo when I handed him the signed contract. There’s a boutique downstairs, maybe you’d like to check it out.”

The sparkle returned to Tiffany’s eyes as she opened the small envelope. It held a Titanium American Excess card, printed with the company name and the name of Theodore Francis Green.

“Just put whatever you need on my bill. Heck, buy a new dress. But watch it when you go out,” Theodore cautioned, “the limit is only one hundred. One hundred thousand.”

Tiffany threw her arms around Theodore’s neck, and kissed him on the cheek. “Who would have ever imagined. Tiffany Taylor, the poor kid from Rosemont High, in the best hotel in L.A., about to go to the best restaurant in L.A! This is the happiest day of my life!”

*     *     *     *     *

“You look amazing,” Langston said.

Tiffany’s giggle returned as Langston complimented her on her new outfit, a hot pink, strapless, sequined gown with matching shoes and bag. Theodore, standing beside her in the tuxedo that had been waiting for him in his room, had never felt more dressed up. Round, gold-framed eyeglasses and a matching gold watch were his stylish, though quirky, Tiffany-chosen accessories. Langston, also in a tux, looked like the leading man in an old Hollywood musical. Theodore half-expected him to break out in song or dance as he introduced his group to the “guests of honor” at the celebration dinner: his stunning, blonde date, Crystal, a Monica’s Secret underwear model; Troy Sylvan, the head of Void’s Research and Development department, described by Langston as “my right-hand man”; and Troy’s gorgeous, red-haired date, Zirconia, whom Theodore was sure he’d seen on television, though he couldn’t remember quite where. Out of the four of them, only Troy, a short, few-pounds-overweight man with sharp facial features, a black goatee, and longish blond hair pulled into a ponytail, stood out as a non-beautiful person.

“That’s a fabulous dress, Tiffany,” Crystal said.

Tiffany smiled winningly. “Thank you.”

Always a little uncomfortable in social situations, Theodore was glad the initial attention was mostly on Tiffany and not him. It’s a good thing she came along, he thought. I may have the job, but I sure don’t want to get started off on the wrong foot.

The headwaiter appeared. “Your table is ready,” he announced. He seated them all at a marble-topped, candlelit table near a window overlooking the lights of the Hollywood Hills. “Your waiter will be here shortly.”

“Looks like the best seat in the house,” Theodore said.

“It is.” Langston carefully took his napkin and unfolded it, placing it on his lap. “I hope you don’t mind that I’ve taken the liberty of ordering for us all. We’ll be having the Star Gala, a dinner The Posh prepares only for its most special guests, all in celebration of our new president of VCCs Biotechnology Division.”

“Wow,” said Theodore.

“It sounds wonderful,” Tiffany said. Under the table, she reached for one of Theodore’s hands and gave it a little squeeze, her code for, “You could have said something a little better than ‘Wow.’” The hand-squeeze made Theodore think about how he’d had his warts burned off again just two weeks ago and was already getting bumps.

The waiter came out with three kinds of caviar and creamed turtle eggs on crunchy toast to accompany plates of oysters and shrimp. He clapped his hands three times, and a fountain in the form of a two-foot-high mermaid rose from the center of the table. Applause broke out as champagne streamed from her conch shell and the waiter filled glasses for them all.

“To Theodore,” said Troy.

They all clinked classes in a toast.

“I think these turtles just might be on the endangered species list,” Langston stage-whispered, before popping a piece of egg and toast into his mouth with gusto. Everyone chuckled.

Troy, a bit of egg lodged on his black goatee, laughed the loudest; a merry, high-pitched laugh that, along with the goatee, made Theodore think of that goatish Greek god, Pan. “You’re too much,” Troy said to Void.

The cream o’ truffle soup was followed by lobster tails in puddles of sherry cream sauce sprinkled with herbs and thin broiled slices of rabbit and ostrich. The main course featured thinly sliced, rare veal surrounded by steamed vegetables of green and orange carved into the shapes of huge gemstones. Star-shaped potatoes had the restaurant’s name written on them in letters of melted butter.

“My, I think we’ve tasted about five types of animals!” said Crystal.

“Six,” said Langston.

For the next course, Bradley brought a tray of imported cheeses and then rolled out a silver cart carrying a miniature tree, covered with dark cherry-red fruits the size and shape of small pears.

“Oh my,” said Tiffany. “Is this Theodore’s tree?”

“Sure is,” Langston said. “It’s a pherry tree.”

A thrill went through Theodore.

“Mmm, pherries. My favorite!” exclaimed Crystal. “I buy them all the time at the market.”

Behind his gold-framed glasses, Theodore eyed the tree. “Wow,” he said, regretting the word as soon as he said it. “I mean, I remember doing the work for this cross-breeding during grad school. The patent sale paid for a new car. That was almost a decade ago. I knew pherries were available in California, but they’re not in Colorado yet.”

“They’ve been in L.A. for six months,” said Crystal. “They have a hard time keeping them in stock; they’re always sold out!”

“Such an interesting name,” said Troy. “Pherries. Like the little flying fairies.” His thin lips curved upward. “Did the fairies help you out on this one, Theodore?”

“Not that I know of,” said Theodore, grinning. “I’m a man of science.”

“I’ll drink to that.” Langston raised his glass. “To science.”

“To science!” The crystal rang musically as the group clinked their glasses once more.

They hand-picked their pherries and declared them perfect.

For dessert, a flaming rum dish, Chocolate Revelry, was prepared at the table. Everyone agreed the luscious combination of chocolate, cake, whipped cream, and two kinds of rum, was divine. Finally they shared a rare blend of coffee, grown on a special mountaintop in Hawaii and fertilized by only the guano of rare, endangered, tropical birds.

Tiffany oohed and ahhed at each presentation, while Theodore felt like a fish out of water. He had never had this much attention, ever. He used his best table manners, just as Tiffany had coached him, making only one false step, when he accidentally splashed champagne from his glass during a toast. Langston had thought it funny and splashed a little out of his, too. Troy followed, roaring with laughter. The women raised their eyebrows over the childishness, but laughed too.

On the subject of biotechnology, Theodore found both men hanging on his every word. Langston said, several times, “Theodore, we’ve been looking for someone like you for a long time,” and Troy nodded in agreement. While the swirl of the women’s conversation — on shopping, restaurants, and celebrity gossip — played in the background, Langston and Troy sat enthralled, listening to Theodore’s theories on the future of gene-splicing.

“You will not believe it Friday, when you visit the laboratory,” Troy said to Theodore over coffee. “We are working on projects that are going to make what’s been done in the biotech arena look like child’s play.”

His date, Zirconia, who had stopped talking to Tiffany about shopping long enough to pay attention, nodded, and her long red curls bounced like Slinkies. “But I heard it’s top secret, so you can’t talk about it here,” she said, placing a crimson-tipped finger to her crimson lips.

Looks like she’s had a little too much champagne, thought Theodore. “I can’t wait to see it,” he told Troy.

Troy dabbed his goatee with a napkin. “Langston, now that Theodore is president of VCC’s Biotech Division, we’ll let him in on all the secrets.”

“If we’re going to the lab Friday, I guess tomorrow I’ll get set up in my office?” Theodore asked.

“Oh no,” Langston said. “No reason to rush. We’re going to have a little fun first.”

“Excellent!” exclaimed Tiffany, who was obviously feeling the effects of the champagne as well.

Void gave Tiffany a green-eyed wink. “It’s enough to make even me giddy at times.”

Back at the hotel, Tiffany told Theodore about a conversation she’d had with Crystal during a trip to “the little girl’s room.”

“She was really nice, Theodore. She asked how long we’d known each other, and she said we’d all get to be great friends!” Tiffany kicked off her shoes, went over to the sofa. “They really like you.”

The way she said “they really like you” grated on Theodore’s nerves. He was happy the night was a success, but Tiffany always had this surprised attitude when things went well for him.

“And guess what I found out?” Tiffany asked. “It’s quite the shocker.”

“Hmm?” Theodore, taking off his tuxedo jacket and hanging it over a chair, went to get a glass of water at the bar.

“I made a comment about Langston, how I had a lot of experience in cosmetics and studying facial structures, and that I’d noticed that Langston was just so incredibly attractive.”

Pouring a glass of water, Theodore yawned. Doesn’t sound like a shocker to me.

“I told her that Langston reminded me of an actor, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it and she said, now Theodore, get this: ‘A little Nicky Wayne, the nose and the chin, and a little Robert Ransom, the eyes and the lips.’ Theodore, he’s had a lot of plastic surgery!”

The information didn’t compute with Theodore. “Was he in some kind of accident or something?”

Tiffany laughed. “No, silly. Crystal said before the surgery he was all money and brains, no looks at all! Well, he had an okay body, but his face was just . . . yuck. Crystal worked at VCC before she became a model and said that his dad used to make fun of him all the time, when Langston worked as a scientist. So after he died, Langston had all this surgery.”

Theodore felt a little ill. Sure, plastic surgery was something every celebrity out there was doing, not to mention scads of wealthy and even not-so-wealthy people, but Langston, changing most of his facial features? Beyond strange. He felt like he’d spent several hours with someone who was partially a . . . a hoax. “That’s really weird.”

“Oh, Theodore, you’re just hopelessly old-fashioned.”

“Maybe. But I just wasn’t raised to be comfortable with those kinds of things. You said Crystal worked at Void Corporation?”

“For a while. She was Langston’s dad’s secretary. But after he died, she got into modeling and then started dating Langston. That was a couple of years ago.”

Theodore shook his head. “I can’t get over it. Plastic surgery.”

“He’s just trying to improve himself. Crystal said he had a pretty tough life. That his parents split up when he was a baby and he never saw his mother again. His father was pretty mean. Crystal said she’s also had work done, and so has Zirconia.”

“That doesn’t surprise me.”

“Everyone does it here. I wouldn’t mind doing something about, you know, this double chin.”

“Tiffany, your chin is fine. Please don’t get sucked into that mentality. And not everyone does it here. Troy Sylvan doesn’t.”

“Crystal said he’s the odd man out. That she’s always fixing him up with models, but he never seems to date any of them for long.”

“Hmm.” The term La-La Land entered Theodore’s mind, and not for not the first time that day. “That doesn’t mean a lot. One thing’s for sure, we’re not in Kansas, I mean Colorado, anymore, Tiff.”

“That’s for sure. It’s so much better here.” Tiffany picked up her shoes and took them to the closet. “I’m beat, and I feel a little sick from all that food. I’m going to have to spend a few hours down in the hotel gym tomorrow.”

“We’d better get up early, then. Langston says he has a big day planned.”

To purchase your own copy of Zera and the Green Man, visit the official website now. Paperback and Kindle versions are now available.

Zera and the Green Man is a novel by Sandra Knauf, a local author and sustainability advocate living in Colorado Springs.

GreenwomanPublishing

Published via US Represented by consent of the publisher:
Published by Greenwoman Publishing, LLC
P. O. Box 6587, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80934-6587, U.S.A.

First published in the United States of America
Copyright © Sandra Knauf, 2013
All rights reserved

ISBN: 978-0-9897056-0-8 (paperback)
ISBN: 978-0-9897056-1-5 (ebook)

Cover drawing by Paul Spielman.
Cover photography by CanStockPhoto 11569383
Cover and interior design by Zora Knauf.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or living-dead, is entirely coincidental.

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