The Jokes On You
By Tara Kerry
The conference room was filled with people in suits and ties. Some were sitting at the large rectangular table while others stood on the sides of the room. All eyes were focused on the three attorneys who stood at the head of the table.
Wendell Woody cleared his throat as he began his presentation. "Id just like to say as a founding member of Woody, Hutchinson and Hunter, Im very proud of the hard work and dedication Ive seen from our staff. Without you, we couldnt have won this last case." Jan Hutchinson and Ginger Hunter nodded in agreement. "So, to show our appreciation, I would like to award a little something to the people who we feel contributed the most to the case."
The founding partners of the downtown Dallas law firm took turns announcing names and handing the sealed envelopes to the valued employees. A young woman with brown eyes and hair so fair it was almost white, looked on smugly, so sure that her name would soon be called.
"And lastly," Wendell began, "we have a member of our support staff who put in an extraordinary amount of time doing research and making sure all the discovery and trial exhibits were always in order. I think there were rumors going around that she was living in her office." Katherine Gray started smiling as she heard the introduction; it was her turn to shine. "Erin Doyle."
The smile quickly turned into a glare of daggers as Katherine watched the small blond walk over to Wendell. A look of surprise was on her petite features as she accepted the envelope and shook hands with the partners then went back to her spot against the wall. "For those of you who didnt get called up here, we hope this will motivate you to work harder next time. Okay, now get back to work."
Katherine forced a fake smile on her face as she walked over to her fellow paralegal. "Nice job, Erin."
"Hey thanks, Katherine. Wow, I never expected this," she stated genuinely, a smile still pulling at her lips.
"Yeah. Well Id better get back to my billable hours," the brown-eyed woman remarked as she headed back to her office, plans of revenge flowing through her brain. That bonus should have been mine! Erin Doyle will pay for stealing my glory!
Erin sat at her desk typing records into a database program. She was working so intensely she jumped when her phone rang. "This is Erin," she announced into the receiver.
"What you wearing?" the voice on the other side of the phone questioned, using their groups catch phrase.
The blond laughed. "Hey, Ren, whats going on?"
"Well, a few of us were planning on going to Dave and Busters after work and then maybe stop by Sues afterwards. We were hoping youd be able to join us, unless of course, youre working late again."
Erin paused a moment to look at the workload on her desk; it was actually manageable for once. "No, I can make it. What time?"
"Hows six-thirty sound?"
"Sounds good to me. I cant wait to whoop your ass at Galaga again," Erin joked with her friend.
Rene laughed. "Uh huh. Keep dreaming, shorty."
At five-thirty, Katherine walked past Erins office and was a little surprised to see the woman had changed into casual clothes and was shutting down her computer. "Big plans this weekend?"
Erin was caught a bit off guard by the sudden intrusion. "Uh, not really; just going out to dinner with some friends."
"I see. Any of them happen to be your boyfriend?" Katherine inquired.
"Actually, Im between boyfriends right now," Erin lied. She was not out at work and found it uncomfortable to be questioned about her private life.
"Okay. Well, have a good weekend." Katherine continued down the hallway. A look of evil shadowed her face as the perfect plan came to her.
Erin sat astride the mock Harley Davidson as she raced Rene on the video game motorcycles. The others in the group had fanned out to play some of the other games in the large room.
The small blond handily kicked her friends butt in the game. Rene sat back on her Harley and glanced over at Erin and smiled. "You know, youre looking pretty cute sitting on that bike. Tell me again why you dont have a girlfriend?" Rene loved teasing the younger woman about her love life, or lack thereof.
Erin rolled her eyes. "Is Ask me about my love life tattooed on my forehead or something?"
"Im guessing this isnt the first time you were asked this question today." Rene climbed off the motorcycle and walked with Erin over to the zombie shoot-em-up game.
The blond swiped her card in the reader and grabbed one of the guns. "Not exactly."
"Well, dont worry, my friend. Im sure we can get you fixed up with someone. You just need to learn the right line."
Erin chuckled. "And what is the right line?" Rene leaned over and whispered something into her ear that caused the shooters face to redden. "Uh I dont think so, Ren. Im sure that special person is out there and sooner or later Ill run into them."
"I think youve watched too many Disney movies, Snow White," Rene teased. "But whatever floats your boat, short stuff."
Erin opened fire on the video zombies. Blood, gore and body parts flew left and right. "Snow White this," she mumbled as she continued her assault on the undead.
The weekend ended too soon for Erin. Riding up in the elevator, she pondered to herself how a work day could go by so slowly, but Saturday and Sunday flew by at a frantic pace. The blond yawned as she exited the elevator and walked down the hall to her office. She was not a morning person by nature but she had trained herself to get up early to work out before she had to be at the office. Otherwise she would be exercising late at night after she finally got home from work.
Erin sat down at her desk and turned on the computer, checking her voicemail messages while she waited for the machine to boot up. "Only four messages, must have been a slow weekend," Erin commented as she took notes on the content of the attorneys requests.
She was busy reading and replying to e-mails when a voice caught the blond paralegals attention.
"Did you have a nice weekend?" Katherine asked from the doorway.
"Yeah. It went by too quickly though," Erin replied politely.
The brown-eyed woman took a few steps into the office. "Dont I know it. Erin, I have a favor I need to ask you; it would really help me out."
"Uh, what is it?" Erin inquired cautiously. She did not know why, but she did not completely trust Katherine.
"Well, you see, my cousin Cole just moved here and I was hoping you could be persuaded to go out on a blind date with him."
"Oh. Uh, well I dont know, Katherine." Erin began trying to come up with an excuse.
"Youre not seeing anyone right now, are you?" Katherine interrupted. "Its just one date, Erin. Hes a really great guy; I know you two will hit it off. Besides when is the last time you went out on a date?"
The blond silently sighed. At least if she did this she would have an answer when someone asked her that annoying question. "Okay, Ill do it."
"Great. Heres his phone number. I told him youd give him a call later today." Katherine handed her a piece of paper with the name Cole Fisher on it and a phone number. "Let me know how it goes," she remarked as she left.
The clock announced the lunch hour had arrived and Erin picked up the piece of paper Katherine had given her. "No time like the present," she told herself as she took out her cell phone and dialed the number.
It was picked up on the second ring. "Hello?"
"May I speak with Cole Fisher, please?"
"Uh, this is he," the person announced pleasantly.
"Hi, this is Erin Doyle. I work with your cousin, Katherine, and she thought I might, uh, show you around town."
"That sounds like a great idea to me," Cole commented eagerly. "How about we start tonight. Maybe dinner somewhere?"
Erin figured she might as well get the date over with. "Sure. Hows Bone Daddys at six-thirty?"
"Great. Do you want me to pick you up or should we meet there?"
The blond considered this a moment. "How about I meet you there; I have an errand I have to run after work."
"Okay, Erin. Ill see you at six-thirty then."
"Oh wait. How will we spot each other?" Erin questioned not knowing what Cole looked like.
"Dont worry. Katherine e-mailed me a photo of you from some company function. Ill find you," Cole assured her.
On the way to Bone Daddys, Erins cell phone rang. She glanced at the caller ID before answering it. "Hey, sis. Whats up?"
"I just wanted to remind you that its already March 25th and the folks anniversary is April 1st," Sarah reminded her sister.
"Oh crap. Ive been so busy at work I totally forgot." Erin made a mental note to buy a card. Not living in the same state as her family sometimes resulted in her being out of the loop.
"I thought you might have. So, do you want to know what we got them?"
"Yeah. That might be nice."
"Okay. Were giving them a pedestal sink this year, you owe me $56.68 for your half."
"The check is in the mail," Erin joked. "So how are Steve and the kids?"
"Doing fine. Your nephew wants to know when Auntie Erin is coming to visit." Sarah loved pulling guilt trips on her younger sister.
"Umm. Tell Gabe Ill see what I can do," the blond replied as she turned into the restaurant parking lot. "Well, its been great talking with you, Sarah, but I gotta go."
"What? You have a hot date or something?" the older woman teased her sister.
"Well, as a matter of fact, I do," Erin answered. "Ill tell you about it later. Gotta go."
Erin walked though the door of the restaurant. She just loved Bone Daddys. The atmosphere was nice and the food was great. She glanced around at the people waiting for tables as she tried to guess which one might be Cole. She did not have to wait long as she watched a tall man with dark hair walk towards her smiling.
The paralegal did a quick assessment. He was close to six feet tall. He had very dark, almost black hair, and a goatee the same color. But the thing that caught Erins attention the most were the mans eyes. She had never seen a more beautiful shade of blue.
"Hi, Erin. Im Cole," he announced as he held out his hand.
She firmly shook the offered hand and smiled. "Its nice to meet you, Cole." She felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up with the contact, but quickly dismissed it.
"Our table should be ready soon. Would you like to wait in the bar?"
"That sounds good."
The pair took seats at the bar. A redheaded woman walked over to them. "Can I get yall something to drink?"
"Ill take a Corona," Cole ordered and then motioned for Erin to go ahead.
"Smirnoff Ice, please."
The bartender went to get their drinks leaving Erin and Cole alone again.
"So how long have you been in Dallas?" Erin questioned trying to break the ice.
"About a month or so. What about you?" He handed the bartender some money after she set their drinks on the bar.
The blond picked up the bottle and took a sip. "Itll be two years next month."
"Ahh, so youre not a native Texan either. Where did you move from?"
She shook her head. "Youre not going to believe me, but I moved here from Hell, Michigan."
Cole chuckled charmingly. "So I guess when you go home to visit you can really say youve been to Hell and back."
Erin could not help but smile and laugh; there was something about this man that made her feel relaxed and comfortable. It was as though she had known him much longer than twenty minutes.
The host called Coles name and led them to a booth. "Enjoy your dinner."
They perused the menus a moment before Cole put his down and looked at Erin. "What would you recommend?"
The blond closed her menu. "Well the chicken fried steak is excellent, and its huge too."
"Mmm, now that sounds really good. I havent had chicken fried steak in forever." He picked up his beer and took a swig. "So can I order that for both of us?"
"Sure, why not. One night of splurging wont kill me," she joked.
The server came over and took their orders for chicken fried steak and two Cokes.
"So what do you do, Cole? Katherine really didnt tell me much about you."
"Really? Okay. I work with computers. I travel around to a few companies in the Dallas and Ft. Worth area setting up their systems and keeping them running."
"That sounds interesting. Whats the weirdest problem youve had with a customer?"
Cole leaned back in the booth, making himself comfortable. "Well there was this one customer who called to complain because his printer wasnt printing in color. I went to check it out and discovered the guy hadnt removed the tab from the bottom of the cartridge before he put it in the printer. That was the easiest fifty dollars Ive made."
The chicken fried steak was delivered and devoured followed by a real nice brownie dessert. Conversation moved freely with moments of comfortable silence as the pair ate. When they had finished the last bite, Cole sat back. "Man, that was good, but Im stuffed now."
Erin laughed. "Yeah, youre telling me. I think Ill have to do an extra five miles on the treadmill to get rid of all this."
The man shook his dark head. "Nah, I think three and a half should do it," he teased as he grabbed the bill when the server placed it on the table.
Erin began to remove her wallet from her purse, but Cole waved her off. "No, Ive got it." He saw the look of apprehension on her face and smiled. "Really."
"Well, thank you."
After paying the bill, and despite Erins protests that it wasnt necessary, Cole walked her to her car. He checked out her blue Volkswagen Beetle. "Cute car. I think it would probably fit in the back of my truck," he joked.
"That could come in handy sometime," she replied, her voice taking on a flirtatious tone.
Cole took a step towards her. "I want to thank you for lovely dinner, Erin. And umm well Id like to go out with you again. How about a movie tomorrow night?"
Erin was a little taken aback by this. A part of her really wanted to go with him but there was this other part that was telling her it was wrong to lead him on. She was surprised when she heard herself say, "Sure. And you can pick the movie."
"Great. Do you have an e-mail address?"
Erin opened her purse and took out a business card. She retrieved a pen and before knew it, she was writing her home phone number on the back. "Here are all the numbers to reach me, and my e-mail address as well."
"Thanks. I guess Ill see you tomorrow then." He leaned over and gave Erin a friendly hug. "Drive safe."
The blond watched the man walk away. "Uh yeah, you too."
She quickly got into her car and sat there a moment before starting it. What the heck is going on with me? Im flirting with this guy! And why was my heart beating so fast after that hug? "You need to get your head on straight before someone gets hurt," she told herself. But there was something familiar about the man that was bugging her. She didnt know why, but she was actually feeling attracted to him. "You just havent been out on a date for a while." She tried to convince herself. "I think you need to go hang out with the girls more."
Erin arrived home around six oclock. The workday had passed without much consequence. She had answered Katherines question about the dinner date without a lot of details. The woman had seemed quite pleased when Erin had mentioned she and Cole were going to the movies that evening. A few e-mails had passed between Cole and Erin before the plans had been finalized. They were meeting at the theater at 7:45 p.m. to see Mulholland Drive, and for some reason beyond her comprehension, Erin was actually looking forward to seeing Cole again. She quickly changed clothes and made sure the cat had food and water before she headed out the door. Rush hour traffic was always such a bitch.
The blue bug pulled into the parking spot a few minutes early. Erin got out and began walking up to the theaters entrance. "Hey, long time no see," Cole remarked as he hurried up next to her. "You look great tonight; that sweater really brings out the green in your eyes."
"Hi, Cole. Thanks. So, how many computers did you save today?" the blond questioned trying to play off the compliment, but secretly thrilled that he had said it.
"Oh, I had fun today. Some idiot opened a virus and it spread over the whole network. The bad thing is Id just sent them all an e-mail warning them not to open anything they got with that subject."
Erin shook her head. "Ouch. That doesnt sound like fun."
"It could have been worse. Fortunately most of the people heeded my warning and just deleted the mail. Do you know what virus protection your computer uses?"
"Uh, no. Actually Im pretty computer illiterate," the paralegal explained. "I just know certain programs I use at work."
"Ah, sounds like you may be in need of some private lessons then. Do you have a PC at home?" Cole asked with a smile and a twinkle in his blue eyes.
"Yeah. I dont do a whole lot with it though. Mostly I use it for e-mail and web surfing, and of course eBay."
Cole laughed. "EBay, huh? Better watch out, that can get pretty addicting." The pair got into line to buy tickets.
"My friends are always kidding that I need to get on the 12-step program for eBay addicts," Erin admitted.
Erin bought the tickets despite Coles protests. "Do you like to sit in the back, middle or front?" the man asked as they walked into their theater.
"Middle I guess, but I can sit anywhere."
"That works for me. With the stadium seating we shouldnt have to worry about getting you a booster seat to see over the head of anyone who sits in front of you," Cole teased.
"Uh huh. Im tall enough to kick your butt," Erin challenged smiling.
Coles brows lifted. "Oh really? Well we might have to give that theory a test one day."
Thankfully the lights went down and Erin did not have to continue the conversation. What is it about this guy that makes me flirt with him? She sat through the previews pondering this, but then decided to enjoy the movie and worry about it later. Besides, this was a David Lynch movie so she knew she had better give it her full attention.
Two hours later, the lights came back up. Erin could hear some of the audience complaining they were confused. She had enjoyed the film although it was a bit strange. And she would have to be sure to tell Rene about the two lesbian sex scenes in the film so maybe she could entice the woman to come see it with her.
"So what did you think?" Cole asked as they stood to leave the theater. He placed his arm around the small blonds shoulders to help guide her through the crowd.
"I liked it. It was a little weird, but thats what you have to expect with a Lynch film," Erin answered, feeling a bit disturbed that she was enjoying having Cole touch her.
"What about you?"
"It was good. I thought the actresses did a great job. I think the movie should get some Oscar nominations." He held the door open for Erin and followed her outside. "Okay, weve gone to dinner and a movie so far. What else is there to do around here?"
Erin thought for a moment. Did she really want to continue to see Cole? She found herself answering yes to that question; she wanted to spend more time with him. "Well we do have museums, and theres a nice aquarium downtown."
Cole smiled. "Sounds like fun. When do we go?"
"Well, I think Saturday would work best since I have some commitments the rest of the week."
"All right, but how about dinner at my place on Friday night?"
The blond hesitated a moment. "Um, okay."
"Great. Ill e-mail you my address and we can set up a time." They were now standing by Erins car. Cole leaned over and gently kissed her on the cheek. "Drive safe."
The paralegal blushed. "You too. See you on Friday."
Erin was having a bad day; nothing seemed to be going right. The computer network went down a few hours so she could not get into her documents, and then she had a minor argument with some clerk trying to find out where the records she had ordered were. She leaned back in her chair a moment, wondering what else could go wrong. There was a knock on her door and Erin looked up to see Ian from the mail room standing there.
The young man held up a vase of flowers. "I have a delivery for you, Erin," he announced smiling.
Erin was a bit taken aback. Who would be sending me flowers? She took the bouquet of mixed flowers from Ian and set them on her desk. "Thanks."
The kid left and Erin plucked the small envelope from the arrangement and removed the card. "I had a great time last night. Cant wait till Friday. Cole"
Erin smiled at the words and leaned in to smell the sweetly scented flowers. She did not see Katherine peer in, a look of satisfaction on her face.
After the flower delivery Erins day seemed to get better, or maybe things just did not bother her as much. She drove home enjoying the flowers scent as it permeated her car. She had taken a tulip from the arrangement and put it in the small vase that came with the car. She was tired from her kickboxing class, but it was a good tired. She enjoyed the class since it helped her work out pent-up frustration from the day.
After a hot shower and a light dinner, Erin curled up on the couch with her laptop. She opened up her writing folder and double clicked on the icon for her journal. She paused a moment to collect her thoughts before she began writing.
March 27, 2002
Today I received flowers from someone for the very first time. And that person is a guy. Im not sure whats going on with me right now. Ive never really been attracted to men and this is all very confusing for me. What is it about Cole that makes me feel this way? Ive only known him for three days, but it seems like Ive known him a lifetime. My skin tingles where he touches me and last night when he kissed me on the cheek, I wished it had been my lips. Sometimes I think I shouldnt see him anymore, to stop this affair before its too late, but in a way I think its already too late. I dont know if I want to stop seeing him, or if I even can.
Erin read what she had written and hit the save button. Then she got ready for bed.
When Friday finally arrived, Erin and Cole had spoken on the phone a couple of times and had exchanged quite a few e-mails. The blond was still a bit anxious as she pulled into Coles apartment complex. She climbed out of the car and straightened her sweater nervously.
Cole answered the door smiling. Erin held up a bottle of wine. "I didnt know what were having so hopefully this will go with it."
The man took the bottle and read the label. "I couldnt have picked a better match myself." He guided her into the apartment. "Its not much, but its home."
Erin glanced around the place. There was a dark brown leather couch and a kick-ass entertainment center. A small dining table was set up in an adjoining room. There was also an aroma coming from the kitchen that made Erins stomach growl.
Cole laughed. "Sounds like dinner is ready just in time," he teased.
Dinner was amazing and Erin complimented her host many times. "Youll have to give me the recipe," she announced after finishing her last bite.
"Glad you liked it. Would you like some more?"
Erin smiled. "I think Id bust if I ate another thing."
"Then I guess well have dessert later. More wine?"
"Sure, why not." She picked up her glass for Cole to refill. "And let me help you clean this up."
"Oh, dont worry about it. Ill clean up later," he assured her. "Would you like to watch a movie?"
The pair sat on the couch as Army of Darkness played on the large-screen TV. Erin did not know if it was the food, the wine or a combination, but she began to feel a little sleepy. Without thought she rested her head against Coles shoulder. She was surprised how right it felt. Cole shifted and wrapped an arm around her to make her more comfortable. Erin turned her head to look up at Coles face and before she could stop herself she kissed him. That small, chaste kiss led to more passionate ones as Cole returned the kisses. Soon their breathing got heavier and hands began to wander.
Then suddenly without warning, Cole pulled back. "Wait a minute," he announced trying to catch his breath. "I cant do this."
"Im sorry, I didnt mean to " Erin began.
"No, dont apologize. I want to do this, its just well not like this. Erin, theres something I have to tell you." And with that, he reached up and pulled off his hair.
The blond watched in shock as Cole then removed a hair stocking and shook out his shoulder-length dark hair. He then grabbed his goatee and pulled it off his chin. "Erin, my name isnt Cole, its Nicole."
Erin jumped up. She did not know if she should be jumping for joy that she had not fallen in love with a guy, or if she should just walk away. She decided more information was needed. "Why?"
Nicole took a deep breath and sighed. "Katherine Gray asked me to help her pull a joke on someone."
"And how do you know Katherine?" the paralegal asked calmly as she began plotting her co-workers demise.
"Were members of the same gym and we take some classes together. One night she told me about this co-worker who was a complete bitch and how shed screwed her over." Nicole paused. "But I knew from the moment I met you that Katherine was lying; I couldnt see you doing the things she accused you of."
The blond looked down at the ground. "Then why did you continue to see me? Why invite me to dinner tonight?" Erin asked softly.
Nicole gently lifted Erins chin so she could see her face. The taller woman noted the green eyes glistened with unshed tears and it hurt her. "Because I wanted to. I dont know what it is, but I feel a connection with you that Ive never felt before. I was afraid if you knew I was a woman that youd run away screaming. Im sorry, it was wrong to play with you like this."
Erin could not help but laugh at the situation. She saw the confused look on Nicoles face and figured the woman probably thought she had cracked up.
"Whats so funny?" she finally asked.
"Nicole, what Katherine doesnt know is Im gay. I went out with you because I was trying to be nice, and it looks good for me to be seen with a guy. You can imagine how screwed up I felt when I found myself attracted to you, uh, Cole."
Nicole shook her head. "So where do we go from here?"
"Lets start with dessert and take it from there," Erin suggested with a suggestive waggle of her eyebrows.
Katherine could not believe it. Ive set this whole thing up perfectly and then the damn blond has the nerve to call in sick and ruin everything. I wanted to see that little bitchs face when I told her who Cole really was. She had not even been able to get ahold of Nicole all day either. So much for my April Fools Day revenge.
The angry woman stormed up to Nicoles apartment and banged on the door. She was a little surprised when Nicole opened the door only wearing a shirt. "Yes?" Nicole asked casually.
"Where the hell have you been? Ive been trying to call you all day!" Katherine growled as she pushed her way past the dark-haired woman. "And, what happened Friday night?"
"Friday night was great; so were Saturday and Sunday," Nicole answered, a large grin on her face as she thought about the weekend of love-making she and Erin had participated in.
"Sunday? When was the last time you saw Erin?"
Just then Erin walked out of the bedroom. Her hair was ruffled and she was wearing one of Nicoles t-shirts which hung loosely on her petite frame. She moved over to Nicole and wrapped her arms around the taller woman. She stood on her tiptoes and planted a kiss on her lips. Erin continued to hold onto Nicole as she acknowledged her co-worker.
"Oh, hi, Katherine. Thanks for setting me up with Nicole; shes something special."
Katherines face turned red with rage as she let out an ear-piercing yell and stormed out of the apartment.
Erin smiled as she looked up at her partner. "I guess she didnt like being the butt of a joke."
Nicole gave the blond a roguish grin. "Screw her if she cant take a joke."
Erin shook her head. "I think Id rather do that with you." She got in a sneak-attack tickle.
"Happy April Fools Day!" she yelled as she fled back into the bedroom with Nicole right on her heels.
Thanks to Janna for the idea and Karen for fixing it after it was written. And of course Steph for putting these things together<g>