Dec. 1, 2003
Creating a Character
Elana had long ago stopped caring about her past.
Even the day she had at work faded into obscurity as she crossed the smoky room on a beeline for her friends. Julie had a half-smoked cigarette hanging from her lips, her eyes already glassy from alcohol. Next to her sat Gloria, hands covering her mouth to try and stifle her drunken giggles. It was obvious to Elana that her friends had been the ones who left the evidence of alcohol consumption littering the table – the two watery glasses of ice in front of Julie, water tinted pinkish from the mixed drink of choice, a new kind every week, and the three bottles of beer in front of Gloria. Elana managed the first smile all day. Typical. Predictable.
She slid into a seat, slipping past stray elbows and clustered people trying to shout over the music that pounded through the bar, luring the unsuspecting toward the dance floor like a techno siren’s song.
I had to turn someone down for a mortgage today. The thought was good and stuck inside Elana’s head.
Usually, Elana enjoyed her job. Even turning people down on occasion didn’t get to her. It was a numbers game. She didn’t make the numbers, she was just the smiling face with the verdict.
Only today, she couldn’t smile. She could almost taste the expectancy on the couple’s faces.
She took the paper off the fax, paused outside her office with the shiny Asst. Bank Manager right under the Elana Winchester-Moore engraved into the shiny brass. She didn’t want to go in there. She didn’t want to be the smiling face that said “Sorry, I know you need the money from refinancing your house but you won’t get it from First Capital Bank & Trust.” For once, it got to her. It really got to her. She’d been standing there, bracing herself to go into the office, paperwork in her hand, when it hit her. They didn’t say what they needed the money for. Usually people coming in to refinance started off with one of two things, how great a customer they’ve been of the bank for X-number-of-years or they started rattling off just what it is they desperately needed the money for. They hadn’t said anything. They just sat there, quiet, speaking only when spoken to. Waiting. Patient.
Elana’s mind flooded with the countless things that they might need the money for. A sick child. No, a dying child. Her mother needed to move in with them and since they already had four kids and only two bedrooms, they had to add on to the house. Their dog was sick and needed medicine. Elana was sympathetic to that one. When she was just out of high school, she found herself engaged to a guy who didn’t want a dog. He wanted a cat of all things. Their inability to settle on a pet led to their eventual parting of ways. Elana got the dog the next morning.
She knew what Julie would use the money on: clothes. Though all three of them were at various stages of 36 years in age, Julie never stopped working at the mall. She was currently the manager at Victoria’s Secret and spent her lunch hours galavanting through the high-end shops in the mall where she worked. Gloria was, now that she finally had her graphic arts degree, deciding that her life’s calling was making handbags and selling them at the high-end shops in the mall where Julie spent her lunch hours.
But that still didn’t solve the mystery of why the couple needed the money. And Elana hadn’t thought to ask.
A voice pulled her out of her reverie. It was Julie, wanting to know what she wanted to drink. As Elana started to answer, she heard a voice nearby that sounded… familiar. Turning, she recognized that just behind her at the next table sat the male half of the couple that was currently on her mind. She decided to eavesdrop.
“No, Jimmy,” the man was saying to his friend. “We didn’t get it. Which is just fine with me. I told her that she’d do just fine in the car she has. But noooo, she wanted some shiny new car. I hope this taught her a lesson. You don’t always get what you want.”
It sunk in. Elana tried not to giggle.
You don’t always get what you want. The words echoed in Elana’s mind and suddenly she felt strangely better, as if a weight had lifted from her shoulders.
She smiled to herself and took a drink of the beverage Julie had ordered on her behalf. Somehow, she felt that things would work out alright, for her and for the couple.