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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 6 page 03


The Surprise Party

by Elga Mannik

Olivia froze outside the door. The thought of talking to a stranger about infidelity was making her nauseous. She struggled daily with her inability to communicate coherently with people. All part and parcel of her phobia. But her dominant side won out as she reached out, turned the door handle and walked into the offices of Sloan & Associates.

A pretty young woman looked up from her desk and greeted her with a warm smile. “Good morning, you must be Miss Smith. I’m Gloria, Mr. Sloan’s assistant. I’ll let him know you’re here. Please have a seat. Can I get you some coffee?”

“No coffee, thank you,” Olivia muttered. She sat down on the faded sofa, glancing around and taking in the office’s drab brown interior. “Could I have a glass of water?” she asked meekly.

“Of course, just a sec.” Gloria sprinted out to a tiny kitchen. She let the water run for a long time but it was still lukewarm.

“Evian, if you have it” piped up Olivia softly.

“Of course” said Gloria. Sure honey, and Baccarat crystal too. Good God, where did she get that outfit? Probably expensive, but seriously, beige plaid and flats?

She handed Olivia the water and glided back to her desk effortlessly on four-inch killer heels. Olivia took a sip of the tepid liquid, grimaced, and while the assistant was on her phone, emptied the glass into a neighbouring, somewhat wilted, ficus tree. You need this more than I, she thought.

“Hello, Miss Smith. I’m Marty Sloan but everyone calls me Sloan.” A massive hand reached out to engulf her tiny one. “Come this way please.”

He led her into a small cramped office. Piles of paper and file folders teetered in unsteady heaps. She perched on the edge of her seat, nervous but resigned. As he opened a notebook, she studied him for a moment. He was tall and ruggedly good looking. He exuded a restless energy but his voice registered low, soothing and unhurried. She felt calmer in his presence.

“Now, tell me what brings you here today?” he asked.